The most recent segment of the 5th IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) assessment report has been released. The IPCC is a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations. The most recent report is attracting attention for its renewed strong warnings of dire climate change “risks” supposedly agreed to by the “scientific consensus.” This consensus loudly proclaims that warnings of impending planetary tragedy is settled science. Some studies appear to raise questions concerning this claim while other studies flatly contradict it.
Responses to the claim of consensus with respect to the impact of anthropogenic climate change are worth examination on several fronts. One study is cited repeatedly to affirm belief that scientists agree on the risks of climate change. Peter Doran and Kendall Zimmerman have received prominence for reporting on two brief questions posed to 10,257 Earth Scientists in 2009 representing a broad array of science specialties. 3146 responded. Even the climate skeptics of today agreed with their responses: (1) 90% felt, compared to the pre-1800 level, earth’s temperature has increased, and (2) 82% agreed human activity is a significant factor in changing mean global temperature. There is virtually no disagreement with these statements. Of what, then, does the consensus consist?
The most shocking fact concerning the derivation of the frequently quoted “98% of scientists are in consensus on climate change” comes from the following statistic derived from the Doran and Zimmerman report. A select subset of 77 scientists chosen from the 3146 respondents had more than half of their professional papers accepted by peer-reviewed climate science journals. 98% of these (75 of 77) voiced strong support for human influence on climate. This is where the popular 98% figure originated. The Wikipedia link “Surveys of scientists views on climate change” reports similar conclusions on consensus in their reporting of other polls in recent years. Specifically, however, they report more skepticism from climatologists and meteorologists on the “climate change” issue than from the broad range of scientists in other fields.
Senator James Inhofe, ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, has placed these statements in perspective: “The notion of a consensus is carefully manufactured for political and ideological purposes. Its proponents never explain what ‘consensus’ they are referring to. Is it a ‘consensus’ that future computer models will turn out correct? Is it a ‘consensus’ that the Earth has warmed? Proving that parts of the Earth have warmed does not prove that humans are responsible.”
The Wikipedia footnote on the Doran and Zimmerman study contained one citation. Doran and Zimmerman cited their own study: “It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.” We sincerely ask, “Exactly what does the footnote drawn from Doran and Zimmerman mean?” This study has been relentlessly cited in connection with the figure of “98% agreement from scientists.” Agree with what? The authenticity of global warming is not in question. All heat added to the atmosphere since man first inhabited the earth has contributed to “climate change” more or less. Rather, the world wonders about how extensive and how harmful the global warming may be. The answers to this question are incessantly supplied by agenda-driven alarmists. We are “at risk for worldwide disaster,” they intone. We ask readers to study the plentiful data and complex climate change issues and make their own informed analysis.
One Wikipedia graphic from the above-cited link “Surveys of scientists view on climate change” featured a graph colorfully displaying eight prominent bars, each reporting on a separate survey of scientists, depicting a range of 82% to 98% agreement that climate change is “Largely caused by humans.” Another graph displayed eight barely visible bars from 0% to 6% purportedly representing numbers of scientist skeptics who believe man has “Little or no effect.” Use of this graphic to illustrate “consensus” or to imply the climate question is “settled science” betrays the meaning of consensus and falsely misrepresents the power of science.
We decry the irresponsibility of reporters inflaming the most worrisome potential climate change scenarios among the public. The reported figures from the selected poll sample by Doran and Zimmerman do not begin to communicate the truth concerning historic and contemporary trends of our climate system. Man must strive to understand the issues even better. Earth’s climate and its weather system sustains over seven billion souls. God has plentifully supplied our planet with agricultural resources during the last 200 years of Earth’s dynamic population growth. Beyond the provision of food, humanity has developed technologies for discovering and tapping abundant energy riches to sustain modern manufacturing, communications, and transportation. Earth’s resources, exemplified by its divinely authored climate system, are provided for the benefit of the human race, to be understood and managed with wisdom plentifully supplied from the Creator of humanity and everything in existence.