New Video: John Cook and the 97 Percent

June 19, 2017

Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modeling. Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial””scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of “well-established theories” and are often spoken of as “facts.

Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

“There’s no such thing as settled science” and “science does not work by consensus”, are things we commonly hear from people who really should know better.

The earth revolves around the sun. Apples fall down. Oceans expand when warmed.
These are in fact, examples of “settled science” – accepted by consensus. We don’t re-litigate them in every paper about gravity or astrophysics.

If you google “climate, 97 percent consensus” or some permutation thereof, you’ll be treated to page after page of climate denial nonsense, some elaborately produced, some not, seeking to knock down the idea, essentially, that scientists believe in science.
Climate deniers understand that the scientific consensus is a critical gateway belief, one that most Americans are still unaware of, that makes citizens much more likely to understand the gravity of climate change, and support efforts to curb it.

So a lot of effort goes into attacking this idea.

While the “97 percent of climate scientists agree planet is warming and humans are the cause” meme has gotten pretty good penetration in the main stream media – most talking heads are aware enough to include that in any discussion of climate – in the social media sphere, the National Academy of Science does not have as strong a presence as jackasswithablog dot com.

In spending a lot of time interviewing John Cook, the author of the study so hated by climate deniers, ( and now replicated by a number of teams) – I had a goal to create at least one halfway decent, credible, well produced video tool for science warriors in the unending Facebook, email, and discussion group wars that shape a good portion of our public dialogue.
So here it is – deploy, deploy, deploy.

Hearing Dr. Cook himself explain, briefly, how the figure was arrived at, is worthwhile, as is hearing from several other researchers who have come to similar to results.
Most telling in the stats, — the more expertise respondents had in areas relevant to climate – the more likely they were to strongly support the consensus.

Below, perhaps the most widely shared and effective science comms video on the topic, from John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight”.

In coming months, I hope to share some more insights from Dr. Cook and others on how, even in the presence of an overwhelming scientific agreement, science communicators struggle against the tides of internet bullshit.


17 Responses to “New Video: John Cook and the 97 Percent”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    The following page lists the nearly 200 worldwide scientific organizations that hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action:


  2. Sir Charles Says:

    WMO: Climate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts.

    The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.

    WMO issued its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate ahead of World Meteorological Day on 23 March. It is based on multiple international datasets maintained independently by global climate analysis centres and information submitted by dozens of WMO Members National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Research Institutes and is an authoritative source of reference. Because the social and economic impacts of climate change have become so important, WMO partnered with other United Nations organizations for the first time this year to include information on these impacts.

    “This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

    “Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year,” he said.

    “With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident,” said Mr Taalas.

    The increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heatwaves, he said

    Each of the 16 years since 2001 has been at least 0.4 °C above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by WMO as a reference for climate change monitoring. Global temperatures continue to be consistent with a warming trend of 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C per decade, according to the WMO report.

    • One of the reasons you guys so despise the booklet sent out by the Heartland Institute to teachers (do NOT read it, throw it out NOW!!) is because it dissects the above studies. Thou shalt not question the orthodoxy of – if you do the average above – the 96% consensus. But let’s look into one more illustrative example of how the basic idea crashes & burns. Sir Charles ought to be able to identify with it:

      A chap has a spiffy little sports car, shows photos of it to scores of people having specific expertise on such vehicles. They declare it to be a particular British make & model dating from 1966 and write reports to that effect. Chap shows the photos and reports to multiple sports car societies who unanimously support the conclusions of the experts. Experts agree, entire societies comprised of more experts agree. A consensus, in other words. One doubter asks to see the vehicle in person, and soon reveals the car to be a fake; a 1990s US-made fiberglass kit car with certain vintage items from the original 1966 one placed on it to misdirect people into believing it was a vintage original.

      There never was a preponderance of evidence from independent studies here, the societies only regurgitated the evidence FED to them, and one guy shot down the entire idea of what the vehicle was supposed to be.

      The longer you lads push this ‘consensus’ idea as a means of supporting objective observations, the more appearance you have of wanting to hide certain things.

      • ubrew12 Says:

        The studies above either asked the climate scientists directly, or read the abstracts to their papers. Sometimes both. Neither of these is a photo of a vintage auto. They are all public domain. The methods are included in the published papers, which are also public domain, for one reason, and one reason only: so that you can duplicate the experiment yourself. YOU ARE NOT SHOWN A PHOTO OF A VINTAGE CAR… YOU ARE SHOWN THE CAR.

        Why are you reduced to poor analogy? Given the resources at its disposal, why isn’t Heartland independently COUNTING UP the Scientific consensus for itself? Isn’t that what ‘skepticism’ is all about? Doing the Math, for yourself, and showing your WORK?

        There’s a reason you are comparing a peer-reviewed study to a photo of a car. Or, perhaps, comparing a Scientist to a Witch-doctor. The Koch Brothers aren’t asking you to be a true skeptic. They are asking you to be a graffiti-tagger, and you can’t resist.

        • And there’s “ubrew12” in his car, out in mid-air, having just flown off a credibility/comprehension cliff of his own making. Total sidestep of what I first spoke of, the Heartland booklet chapter 1 dissection of the assorted studies. Yep, the methodology is out there, that THAT is where the faults are for all to see in the studies. Y’all are just in denial about that. Analysts using proper instead of biased methodologies count up ‘consensus’ figures far different than what’s reflected in these studies. But when you don’t read material contrary to your pre-conceived conclusions, you aren’t aware of that are you?

          AGWers are shown “the car” (papers labeled ‘pro-AGW’ for example that are not) and they make incorrect assumptions about it, and societies (the appeal to authority) do little more than repeat the mistakes. My analogy is as apt as it can be about how a show of hands on any given topic can never validate the truthfulness of the topic if the audience is misled.

          Meanwhile, you have proof that the Koch Bros ask me do do anything? Let’s see it. And if you look back through the collection of my comments here, can you come up with a single one where I accused any of you to be shills of anybody?

      • andrewfez Says:

        More like they asked the lead engineering and manufacturing teams of cars that just rolled off the line, they checked the cars over and examined serial numbers, and looked for parts only available in their supply line, then gave their opinions that it is overwhelmingly likely they indeed were the actual manufactures.

        Or more like they ask the lead researcher on the performance of a particular car about the performance and they got an expert answer.

        • The Doran/Zimmerman’s 97% consensus conclusion arose out of two questions: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?” / “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”

          There was no ‘examination of serial numbers’ or ‘car performance’ there. I would have answered yes to both. So would have every skeptic climate scientist I personally know. The obvious problem is that they – with all their climate science expertise – nevertheless do not agree that human activity is primarily responsible for what little global warming we see. The questions show you a British sports car and you are asked if you agree with the statement that it looks like a British sports car, yes or no. There is no option for saying there could be more to the situation.

          When you tilt a survey question toward the answer you want, you will receive a false picture of whatever is is that you are trying to portray.

          • andrewfez Says:

            I’m talking about J Cook’s study, not Doran’s survey. Cook asking each researcher to qualify their recent work is analogous (as much as can be expected given that your analogy was more the like to a non-sequitur, and I’m but merely using it as a jumping off point) to an auto manufacture authenticating a car that just rolled off their line.

            Have you not considered that the word ‘significant’ has a more rigid meaning to scientists than the general public? At any rate, other surveys using different language return the selfsame result, as does every other means of skinning the cat that has been employed.

            Further it’s ironic that you would want to delve into specifics when there is zero consensus on your side as to what natural cycle has been primarily driving the warming since 1950 and what quantified weighting should be assigned to such specter. And the only contrarian surveys on the topic don’t even bother surveying actively publishing climate scientists, but instead small samples of old meteorologists/weathermen and the like.

    • mboli Says:

      When the various Congressional committees hold hearings on climate change, and they want to stack it with deniers, it is pretty much always the same few people: Christy, Pielke, Lindzen, Curry. I think maybe one of Idso family sometimes.

      If the scientific community is so chock-a-block with people who disagree about climate change, why won’t Lamar Smith, Joe Barton, James Inhofee, et al. find somebody else to come testify?

  3. mboli Says:

    Let me respond to @Russell Cook’s little parable thusly.
    There was someone who believed that global warming wasn’t happening. He was given accesses to a mountain of data and articles related to global warming.
    Our hero wished to write a paper showing that the mountain of data and papers was merely a house of cards, built upon a very small base, and therefore easily knocked over.
    How to support that?
    First he looked at all the papers from ecological journals showing that climate zones and species ranges were shifting, consistent with global warming. He threw them all out, since they aren’t temperature records.
    Then he looked at historical records of ocean temperatures. Some came from records of a few hundred years of ship voyages, measured by dropping buckets over the side or measured at at seawater inlets.Some were measured from buoys and other instrumentation, some were measured by satellite Some were measured from biological and isotopic markers from shells and cores of the sea floor. They are all consistent with the hockey stick and global warming. But it is all very confusing and it takes a lot of work to put the records together, so our hero heroically threw it all out.
    Then he looked at the reconstruction of the recent ice ages, the physics and astronomy that calculated the change in solar radiation, the models of earth’s albedo, the cores showing concentrations of carbon dioxide, the calculations of radiative imbalance and forcing, the paleo temperature record, and said: that’s all in the past, and anyway we deniers use the ice ages to say global warming isn’t happening. So all understanding of global warming that is derived from reconstructing the ice ages can be thrown out.
    Then he looked at the climate models, which are based on well-understood physics and have successfully predicted a number of striking features of the current warming (such as the simultaneous cooling of the upper atmosphere as the troposphere warms). And I don’t have to tell you what our hero did with the models.
    Anyway, I don’t need relate much more of this story. You see how it is going. Our protagonist had to throw out almost all the data. Multiple independent lines of evidence from multiple disciplines, all of which come to the same conclusion, were dispensed with. Also any argument based on physics. Also any argument based on understanding of the most recent catastrophic climate change events.
    Then, and *only* then, he was able to support his thesis. Global warming is a house of cards built on a very narrow base of a small data set. The consensus comes from a lot of people looking a the same few faulty numbers. Global warming has paused or is statistically insignificant. Yada yada.
    It is unfortunate, @questionAGW, that you have bought into this nonsense.
    Instead of questioning the thousands of scientists in multiple fields who have become persuaded by multiple independent data sets and other evidence, you should be questioning the people choose to *throw out* all that information in pursuit of spurious arguments.

    • Man. Commenter “mboli”‘s first monumental error was to spit up the worthless unsupportable talking point about anyone “not believing in global warming.” Not one of my assorted pals deny that the planet has been warming over the last 150 years, and none of them would ever believe that a static climate is possible. YOU guys are the ones believing we can dial back the climate and keep it at 1850-era levels. The dispute is entirely on whether human-induced GHGs are the primary reason for the warming temps. Skeptic climate scientists dispute that in migraine headache-inducing details …… which commenter “mboli” seems unable to dispute or prove to be nonsense with his vast climate science expertise. Oh, wait. Commenter “mboli” hides behind an anonymous avatar so that we can’t see what level of expertise he/she has. Oops.

      I haven’t bought into anything. Having lived through the global cooling craze of the ’70s, I expressed doubt about Gore’s/Wirth’s/Hansens’s pop-up the moment they got all their media publicity. And as I’ve said multiple times now, I don’t have the science expertise to go toe-to-toe with AGW scientists. I leave that to my scientist pals, and when they attempt to do that, guys like Gavin Schmidt can’t even stand to be in the same room, or guys like Ben Santer express a desire to punch out a particular critic. That ought to be an indicator that something is really wrong with all those “thousands of scientists in multiple fields” … who, by the way, do not have the “climate scientist” label you guys so fiercely demand us to have.

      The main reason why I’m a skeptic is because you-all are enslaved to a political angle of this issue as a means of protecting ‘your scientists’: “Skeptics are paid industry money to lie.” All I do is challenge you-all to deliver proof of that, and you fail to score this knockdown punch every time. One of the other Crocks commenters claims “We’re keeping track of all your lies, Russell, and when the RICO prosecutions start, I will be personally taking a box of materials down to the Justice Department.” Ask that guy to provide you with ONE lie and he will be unable to do so. Doesn’t that make you wonder if your dear leaders also are all show and no go on this accusation against big-name skeptic scientists?

      Shouldn’t you be the one asking yourself why you ignore plausible ‘good news’ information from the skeptic scientists when it is based on spurious arguments? Shouldn’t you be the one looking in the mirror and wondering why you base your arguments on false premises out of the gate?

  4. mboli Says:

    To quote your earlier post in this very comment thread: “…do not agree that human activity is primarily responsible for what little global warming we see.”

    So you agree the planet is warming, but claim it is not as much as the usual measurements show? Or what?

    To assert you accept that the climate is warming, but what you mean by that is different than what most climate scientists mean, is a bit misleading. You should qualify your statement.

    Furthermore there is indeed a substantial part of the denier community that denies the climate is warming.

    To answer a few of your objections: I am not engaged in a scientific endeavor related to climate or global warming, nor have I ever claimed to be.

    And no, the average denier isn’t being paid. But I do think there is a substantial global warming denial PR industry — writing talking points, scanning public writings and scientific articles for snippets to misquote, things like that. LIke a lot of other opinion-influencing PR efforts.

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