Do you remember from your youth the game in which someone whispers a word to another and in the same way this word is passed to yet others in a line. Then in the end you find the word morphed into something different? The same seems to be happening with the Cook Survey. It wasn’t that unexpected though.
Look how the results of the survey morphed into something completely different.
First, the following tweet of president Obama:
Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree:
#climate change is real, man-made
and dangerous. Read more: http://OFA.BO/gJsdFp
The link in this tweet goes back to Reuters, stating:
Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made but a wide public belief that experts are divided is making it harder to gain support for policies to curb climate change, an international study showed on Thursday.
The two statements are a strange twist of the conclusion of the survey.
First the claim that “climate change is real, man-made and dangerous”. The conclusion suddenly went from “97% of the abstracts from which a position was found in the title or abstract, was assumed to endorse anthropogenic global warming” to “Climate change is real, man-made and dangerous“. With all due respect, but there is no way this conclusion can follow from this survey! But nevertheless, this is how the results are being reported to the outside world.
Then let’s look at the Reuters statement: “Ninety-seven percent of the scientists say”. This is not what 97% scientists “say” at all. Remember, this is what the survey actually did:
- A group of volunteers of the blog Scepticalscience compiled about 12,000 papers published between 1991 and 2011 that contained the words “Global Warming” and “Global Climate Change”
- They limited the list by those with an abstract of less than 1,000 characters
- Of this selection they viewed the title and the abstract and rated those in 7 categories
- They could only find a position on anthropogenic global warming in 33.6% of the abstracts
- From those 33.6% there were 97.1% endorsement and only a tiny fraction (1.9%) rejected or was uncertain (1.0%).
Therefor they claim an “overwhelming” consensus…
They tried to pinpoint how much agreement they could find via the title and the abstract of a paper. This leaves me with the question: how many papers that were assumed to endorse anthropogenic global warming really investigated the issue? And additionally: how many of them found it “dangerous”?
Back to the paper. Let’s just look at the conclusion. This is how it starts (my bold):
The public perception of a scientific consensus on AGW is a necessary element in public support for climate policy (Ding et al 2011). However, there is a significant gap between public perception and reality, with 57% of the US public either disagreeing or unaware that scientists overwhelmingly agree that the earth is warming due to human activity (Pew 2012).
Followed by a full paragraph about strategies in media treatment.
Sound odd in a publication that is titled: “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature”. Nothing about public perception in the abstract either and this “gap” was what the Reuters article was all about. The fact that is in the conclusion and even the largest part of it (2 paragraphs out of 3) is a dead giveaway that this is climate policy in action. Maybe, just maybe this is exactly what they wanted to communicate after all?