Inflating the consensus

After the Cook presentation a month ago, I thought it would be interesting to see how his ideas were presented to the public. So I went back to the website of the The Consensus Project. This is how the consensus is explained:

the consensus project: about the consensus

Let’s start with the three statements in the top left part of the image:

The consensus of evidence

EVERY YEAR, more and more peer-reviewed scientific papers have concluded that global warming is a reality, and a direct result of our actions.

MEANWHILE, the number of papers that disagree have remained tiny by comparison.

The implication seems rather clear: when we have so much papers in evidence of global warming and so little papers that disagree, believing the statement would be a no-brainer for the public. But not everything is what it seems. There are so many things in those few sentences that don’t fit.

The fact that many scientist have this opinion, doesn’t mean that it is automatically true. If history learns us something it is that scientists agree on many things in the past and this consensus position was wrong afterwards. To be honest, it is not automatically false either. As far as I know science is about which idea is right, not which idea is the most popular.

The point is: how meaningful are these statements? And is this an honest representation of what was found in their study?

For example: it is not true that the scientific papers queried in the Cook survey concluded that global warming is a reality. Most of them weren’t even about the science of global warming, let alone about the evidence of global warming, but they were based just on the assumption that climate change is real and started their research from there.

Big difference.

So I am not really sure where that The consensus of “evidence” comes from. Some categories like Impacts were not about the evidence, but anthropogenic global warming was their starting point, not their conclusion. Unless you call for example The Denial Of Climate Change Among Conservative White Males In The United States an example of the evidence that proves global warming.

That makes the label of the Y-axis rather puzzling: “Climate papers per year”. Really? Just some browsing their online search tool will bury this misconception for good. The papers were a diverse bunch, not the “climate papers” they were presented as. They just happen to have the terms “global warming” or “global climate change” somewhere in the title or in the abstract.

That are many misconceptions in just 3 sentences. So how come only few notice? Many people just accept the statements at face value. What is there not to like? If one doesn’t look at was actually done, it seems really plausible. But if one looks at the data and the methodology, their claims are seriously inflated and don’t have much bearing with what they actually did.


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