Here is a lovely exposition of the way that statistics can be manipulated and distorted as a propaganda tool and then cited ad infinitum as if they have some intrinsic meaning, sorry in advance to the true believers in Climate change but this may just upset your apple cart just a little next time you cite the “97% consensus” claim.
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Tuesday 28 May 2014
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Today on spiked, Michael Cook takes apart the claim, cited by President Barack Obama, that 97 per cent of scientists are in agreement that climate change is man-made and poses a serious danger.
‘Do 97 per cent of scientists really agree on both propositions? Let?s do a reality check here’, writes Cook. ‘On what issue do academics reach 97 per cent agreement other than that they are being underpaid? That the sun will rise tomorrow? No, some of them will say, because the sun doesn?t rise; the earth revolves. No, because we can only assert that it is probable, not certain. No, because we might be living in a multiverse where the sun will not rise on 28 May, etc, etc.’
So how did an Australian scientist at the University of Queensland, and several colleagues, arrive at the this now famous figure of 97 per cent?
Cook discovered that the researchers had sorted through thousands of academic abstracts featuring the words ‘global climate change’ and ‘global warming’, dividing them up into four piles to indicate whether they held a position on climate change (the biggest pile (66.4 per cent) held no position)
Cook writes: ‘Of the smaller piles which did express an opinion, 97.1 per cent “endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”.’
The researchers then emailed a survey to 8,547 out of the 29,083 authors who ‘endorsed the consensus position’ on climate change, of which only 1,189 responded (nearly all of whom did agree that climate change was man made (97.2 per cent)).
But, as Cook points out, this means that ‘only four per cent of the authors “voted”‘ which is hardly grounds to claim a consensus.
Furthermore, Cook points out, ‘Obama rashly added the word “dangerous” to the claim. Not even [the Australian reseachers] dared to assert that 97 per cent of scientists believe that global warming is “dangerous”.’
Cook concludes: ‘Scientists and politicians do themselves no favours when they use shoddy statistics and public relations flim-flam to sell scientific hypotheses to the public.’
Read the full article:
When we are given any numerical value as a signifier of a proposition’s veracity we should, of course always ask the obvious question of just how was that number made or settled upon. Especially when it is a major dot point in the climate change debate. In any event in scientific terms “consensus” is and always has been close to utterly meaningless, not that any of the true believers will ever admit that because to them its their ticket to ride in the Chariots of the Dogs.