Global Warmist Media Thought Police

The claim that 97 percent of scientists believe climate change is a threat is false

How many times have we seen this? The TV news interviewer asks a politician to explain why he doesn’t accept man-made global warming as a proven scientific fact. A patronizing incredulity — betraying the attitude that only fools could doubt there's a climate crisis — saturates the interviewer’s tone. If the candidate had said he’d dined with an extraterrestrial, the questioner could hardly display greater scorn.

Quickly the interviewer adds that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cited a survey of peer-reviewed literature by climate scientists showing that 97 percent of them consider man-made global warming to be both a real and imminent threat. Then, it’s up to the candidate to respond to the question: How can you deny the conclusion of 97 percent of the experts?

Until recently, most politicians would either sidestep the claim or dive into the argument that science has nothing to do with consensus. But that’s no longer the standard response. Little by little, some presidential candidates are well-enough informed to openly state that the 97 percent claim has been refuted. This is a positive development. But to be more effective, the response needs to be polished: The answer should highlight the full story behind the lie regarding the consensus, and it needs to be told clearly and succinctly.

The claim that 97 percent of climatologists (or climate scientists) agree that global warming poses a significant threat and is being primarily driven by human activities has become the centerpiece of the man-made global warming argument. This, more than all other aspects of the issue, is the big lie that must be challenged.

The difficulty is that responding to the big lie with the truth usually involves wading into too many details. That’s the trap that needs to be avoided. To describe the many ways the claim was concocted would require paragraphs of explanation. And that requires more time than a candidate is ever given for a response.

But is there an answer that might work? Here's one possibility.

“The 97 percent figure was arrived at after Australian global-warming activist John Cook, who led the survey, tossed out roughly 8,000 of the 11,944 papers reviewed because they stated no conclusion. That alone shows that well over half the peer-reviewed literature used in the survey represented skepticism about man-made global warming. The survey was misconducted in other ways beyond that. But the willful failure to account for the majority view expressed in most of the reports is reason enough to discredit the claim.”

The candidate who has more time to talk after that — something that very likely won't happen — might consider pointing to a few more things.

“The true nature of this alleged survey is no secret; it is neither obscure nor hidden information. Why does the mainstream news media simply recite the claim without thoroughly looking at the actual methodology of the survey? What has happened to the professional integrity of reporters? There was a time when journalists — especially American journalists — thought it was their duty to be skeptical about all pronouncements advanced by people claiming to be authorities.”

Now, if the interviewer is on the defensive, perhaps the candidate could even continue.

“There was a time when journalists were constantly on the lookout for the possibility that ulterior motives might exist. Even members of the IPCC have come forward and refuted its claims. So when did reporters start considering it part of their job is to treat an entity like the IPCC as sacrosanct? Are reporters really so naive as to believe it’s immune from political pressures and influence?”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.