I have a group of buddies who are all very much like me. We root for all the same sports teams. We share the same politics. We have similar taste in wine, women, and song. And we email each other sometimes as many as 200 times a day. There are 9 of us and we call ourselves the Otis Distribution list. If you don’t get the reference, go watch some old episodes of the Andy Griffith Show and report back. Our email screeds cover topics ranging from the Redskins to the Nationals to American politics to wars in the Middle East to the recent activities in the Ukraine.
And here is the most notable aspect of these interchanges. We almost never get full agreement among this group on ANY TOPIC. EVER. Wait, hold on. Didn’t I just write that we agree on everything? Well, yeah, except when we don’t, which is most of the time.
What’s my point here? It’s just that when you get 10 people in a room together, let alone 10 thousand, no matter how similar their backgrounds and opinions, they probably won’t agree on much. And this immutable fact has bearing on today’s blog because much of the argument of the global warming alarmists rests on the dubious claim that “97% of the world’s scientists believe in cataclysmic anthropogenic global warming.”
My own reading of the science and the literature on this topic has always revealed a far more balanced opinion amongst the world’s scientific intelligentsia. Furthermore, having worked my entire career in science and medicine and having read the peer-reviewed literature in hundreds of different disciplines or sub-disciplines of science and medicine, I have never seen 97% of scientists in any field agree on anything. Nothing in science is EVER settled. Thus, I always wondered how it could be possible to get 97% consensus in a scientific field that has been evolving and changing for about a million years and whose entire foundation is based on computer models with literally not a single objective and calibrated direct measurement?
The 97% claim, it turns out, was essentially fabricated from whole cloth and has just been repeated by enough pundits and pols that even otherwise intelligent and critical people believe it. In The Myth of the Climate Change 97%, Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer do a nice job of laying out the fallacy behind the 97% claim. They cite numerous studies that paint a very different, and more intuitively believable, picture. Namely, that the scientific community is heavily split on this question of global warming.
Why does any of this matter? Why does it matter that John Kerry spouted this 97% fallacy in his commencement address to Boston College students this month? It matters because there are real and damaging consequences to the actions proposed by the 97% crowd, particularly to poor people in this country and the entire developing world. In Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change, affirmed left-winger Caleb Rossiter chronicles the devastating impact U.S. and European climate policy will have on poor Africans. Closer to home, energy costs may be a negligible line item in the budget of the liberal elite, but can be 30-40% of the monthly budget of a middle or lower class family here in the United States. Most of what passes for eco-policy here in the developed world will dramatically increase energy costs, often to unaffordable levels for much of the world’s population. So, when John Kerry asked “so what if I’m wrong?” in his address to BC students, the answer is that there are severe consequences for hundreds of millions of people. And, only about 40% of scientists actually agree with him in the first place.
It’s nice to finally have some honest debate on this topic.