Andrew Montford writes at the Australian:
N recent months it has been stated repeatedly that 97 per cent of scientists agree global warming is real and man-made. These claims are based on a paper published by a team led by John Cook in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The authors, all associated with controversial global warming activist website Skeptical Science, concluded that 97 per cent of papers expressing a view endorsed the “consensus” position that humans were causing global warming. The paper received an extraordinary reception, being downloaded more than 20,000 times in the first few days after it was published and receiving hundreds of citations from around the internet.
Even Barack Obama’s Twitter feed gave it a mention, claiming it showed “climate change is real, man-made and dangerous”, although the US President had this wrong, since the paper is silent about the possibility of any dangers of climate change.
The amount of media attention the paper received is unsurprising, given it appears to have been written for this express purpose.
Early last year, a security lapse at the Skeptical Science website led to an internal forum for its staff being exposed to public view, and among the contents were several discussions about what became the paper by Cook et al. In one such exchange, Cook explained the paper’s purpose was to establish the existence of a consensus:
It’s essential that the public understands that there’s a scientific consensus on AGW. So (Skeptical Science activists) Jim Powell, Dana (Nuccitelli) and I have been working on something over the last few months that we hope will have a game-changing impact on the public perception of consensus. Basically, we hope to establish that not only is there a consensus, there is a strengthening consensus.
These comments strongly suggest the project was not a scientific investigation to determine the extent of agreement on global warming but a public relations exercise. If that is what it was, then it was successful, but its headline-grabbing impact was possible only by drawing a veil over the precise methodology used…
As Mike Hulme, founder of the Tyndall Centre, Britain’s national climate research institute, put it: “The (Cook et al) article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed (and it) obscures the complexities of the climate issue.” The paper is, on close examination, a damp squib.