At Boston College’s graduation ceremony last spring, former Secretary of State John Kerry warned students with a commonly used, and highly misleading statistic regarding the “crippling consequences of climate change.”
“97 percent of the world’s scientists, continued Kerry, tell us this is urgent.”
But few people understand where this 97 percent meme comes from, nor do they understand its statistical basis.
Many green advocates mistakenly interpret this stat as saying that 97 percent of ALL scientists agree that humans are the primary and main contributing factor to climate change and global warming.
Before debunking the myth of the 97 percent number, it’s important to establish what the alleged majority of scientists are actually agreeing to.
More precise and reasonable language can be found on NASA’s website which says that, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”
The phrase “very likely” takes a little kick out of the absolute certainty that proponents of the 97 percent statistic tend to use, but it’s not near far enough to discredit the number by any means. The circumstance under which that number was derived does a good enough job of that by itself. It certainly narrows down Secretary Kerry’s 97 percent of the entire “world’s scientists” back into the more manageable category of just “climate change scientists” by NASA.
The first claim of 97 percent of climate scientists agreeing on man-made climate change came from a 2009 article in “Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union” by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman who was a student at the University of Illinois.
While there were 3,146 respondents to the survey, Zimmerman intentionally only derived her 97 percent statistic based on the 79 responders who listed their expertise as climate change.
This is not the vast consensus that the public has been led to believe.
She discarded the opinions of published solar and space scientists, physicists, meteorologists, cosmologists, astronomers and other scientists who could have insight into aspects of climate change, solely because they did not list themselves as climate change experts.
What’s just as important to mention is that Zimmerman’s survey questions did not inquire at all whether or not the climate change scientists thought that human contribution to global warming was significant enough to be a problem in the first place. Had Zimmerman actually presented the opinions of those in related fields, she may not have liked the results.
Repeated surveys of meteorologists continually find that the majority opposes the alleged consensus. A 2012 survey of 1,854 American Meteorological Society members found that 60 percent said that man-made global warming was not dangerous.
But we all know that all meteorologists are just a bunch of good ol’ boy Republicans.