Ninety Seven Percent Is Not What Sam Thinks It Is.

Russ Steele

Sam Kink, raises the issue in the comments. “How can I deny that man made global warming is real when  97% of climate scientist agree that it is true.”  Art Horn a meteorologist and author answers this question in an Energy Tribune Article.  The 97% is not what Sam wants to think it is.  Art explains:

Let’s start with where this [97%] number comes from. One of the most quoted sources is the result of an online survey that was published in 2009 by Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman from the University of Illinois. The survey was sent to 10,257 scientists. It was intended to be very easy to respond to and was supposed to take only two minutes to complete. As a result 3,146 scientists responded to the survey. 

There were nine questions in all but the two primary questions in the survey were these. Question number one: When compared to pre-1800 levels, do you think mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant? Of the 3,146 respondents 90% said risen. Herein lies one of the flaws in the survey. This is a loaded question. During the past 2,000 years the earth has had well documented swings in average temperature. At the beginning of the Roman Empire the earth was as warm or warmer than today. This warm spell is known as the “Roman Warmer Period” and extended from about 250 BC to 450 AD. Rome fell during an era when the temperature was turning colder, known as “The Dark Ages Cold Period” from about 450 AD to 950 AD. This cold spell finally gave way to a more agreeable temperature rebound known as the “Medieval Warm Period” from about 950 AD to1400 AD. Hundreds of peer reviewed papers have confirmed that this warm period was as warm or warmer than today’s temperature. After this warm spell the earth cascaded into a prolonged cold era know as “The Little Ice Age” that lasted from about 1400 to 1850 AD. Studies indicate that the bottom of this cold period was around 1700 AD. Since that time the global average temperature has risen. I know of no meteorologist, climatologist or anyone involved in the study of the earth’s temperature who would argue this point.

The survey question: When compared to pre-1800 levels, do you think mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant, was intentionally worded to elicit the response the authors wanted to hear. It was the intent of the question to get a response of “risen”. A loaded question if I have ever seen one. Amazingly the response was not 100%! In fact only 90% of the 3,146 answered “risen” to question one.

Question number two is even more suspect. The question is: Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? Of the 3,146 respondents only 82% answered yes to this question. This means that taken together the percentage response to the survey was not 97% but 86%, a significant majority but not nearly as impressive as a 97% figure.

Question two has several vague areas. First is just what constitutes “human activity”? The burning of fossil fuels to make energy is one. The changing of land surfaces to make cities, farmland and deforestation is “human activity” that can change temperature as well. Changing mean temperature can be accomplished by changing the environment around a climate recording station. This is also “human activity”. As rural climate recording stations are gradually surrounded by urban sprawl and eventually larger buildings and infrastructure, the temperature of the site will warm due to the “Urban Heat Island” (UHI) effect. This has nothing to due with fossil fuel use increasing the efficiency of the green house effect but is a significant “human activity” that can change the temperature of a recording station over time. The results from the survey do not address the variety of just what constitutes “human activity”. A “yes” response to question two implies the responder is referring to fossil fuels but that is not necessarily the case. It is however, what the survey likely wanted to convey.

Question number two also does not address what the word “significant” means to each individual respondent. What constitutes “significant” can be very different from person to person. To some a 50% human influence on the temperature increase of the last 150 years would be significant. To another scientist a 25% human contribution to the temperature increase would be significant. And to another a 10% increase in the global temperature due to human activity would be significant. This range of possible interpretations to the word “significant” makes the 82% response more suspect.

The 97% figure from the survey comes from a whittling down of the accepted number of responses from 3,146 to 79. The 79 scientist are those that said they have recently published 50% of their papers in the area of climate change. Of these, 76 of 79 answered “risen” to questions one (96.2%). How this number is not 100% is very strange. As to question two 75 of 77 answered “yes” (97.4%). As I have shown above this response does not necessarily mean that the respondent was attributing the significant human activity to the use of fossil fuels. Additionally a “yes” response does not quantify the degree of significance that human activity has on climate change. This can range significantly from person to person.

It is interesting that of the 36 meteorologists who responded to question number two, only 23 of 36 or 64% thought that human activity was a “significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures”. The authors dismiss this group of trained atmospheric scientists outright even though their size is almost half of the 79 climate scientists used in generating the 97% figure! Apparently the 64% number was not convincing enough. If the authors of the survey had combined the results of the meteorologists and the climate scientists the “yes” response to question two would have been 98 out of 113 or 87%. That number just doesn’t have the same impact as 97%.

Once again, here is the evidence that warmers like Sam King cannot deal with the facts.  They would rather promote a global warming myth.


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

2 Responses to Ninety Seven Percent Is Not What Sam Thinks It Is.

  1. Greg Goodknight says:

    Russ, Sam King might be amused that even a non-right wing AGW scoffer like me answers those two questions “yes”. Yes, mankind affects climate enough to be “significant”, which, to me, can be an awfully small portion of the total, and it really has gotten warmer since the Little Ice Age.

  2. Sam King says:

    Ninety-seven percent is not what Russ thinks it is:

    I’ll be writing more on Russ’s exclusive reliance on unqualified authorities. This time, Russ uses Art Horn, a meteorologist with a website who is also a resident “expert” with The Heartland Institute, a Libertarian-inspired “think tank” aimed at influencing lawmakers on anything remotely involving government regulation. It even still claims smoking does not hurt one’s health. There is a wealth of information on Heartland that readers are welcomed to search and read for themselves.

    A favorite of climate science deniers is to claim there is no scientific consensus on AGW. Of course, there has been increasing evidence for several decades that AGW is real and has consequences. Consensus forms from the evidence of the science, and the consensus on the reality of AGW only gets stronger. 

    It is not surprising that Russ has to rely on a climate science denier for his take on the consensus; there is only a small minority of climate scientists who are not yet convinced of AGW or deny the reality for non-scientific reasons. As always, the burden of proof long ago shifted to those disagree with the majority of evidence. Charles Darwin started out with he burden of proof on his shoulders. Long ago, the burden of proof shifted to anti-evolutionists. For climate change, It has shifted to Russ and those he relies on no matter how they try to evade it.

    Unfortunately, Russ didn’t tell you about this: 

    “The Scientific Consensus On Climate Change”
    4 November 2009

    Again,  Russ gets caught in the same implausible situation of his own making, as before. The many scientific organizations in the world – virtually every one of them – have put their reputations and credibility on the line by affirming the science demonstrating AGW is real. Furthermore, each of those organizations represents thousands of members. Does s want us to believe, incredibly, that the vast majority of members do not endorse the very position the organizations represent in their members’ names? Have you heard loud outcries from scientists, mass mutinies and resignations?

    No, and you won’t, because the science is sound and the consensus is overwhelming. AGW is real and has consequences.

    Sorry, Russ, that’s the reality.

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