Enemies of Science Want to Confuse You About The 97-Percent Consensus Study

Read time: 5 mins

Earlier this month, John Cook of Skeptical Science and his team of volunteers at the Consensus Project released the latest definitive study of global warming scientific consensus, revealing that 97 percent of peer-reviewed papers with a clear view on the subject agree that global warming is occurring and that humans are the primary cause.

Ever since, we've seen the predictable pushback from fossil fuel industry apologists and climate deniers.

The loudest response comes from the Alberta-based Friends of Science, a shadowy non-profit with a history of Canadian oil company ties, which DeSmogBlog has covered extensively over the years.

From their press release:

Friends of Science Challenge the Cook Study for Bandwagon Fear Mongering on Climate Change and Global Warming

Detailed analysis shows that only 0.5% (65 of the 12,000 abstracts rated) suggest that humans are responsible for more than 50% of the global warming up to 2001, contrary to the alleged 97% consensus amongst scientists in the Cook et al study. Citing fear mongering and faulty methodology Friends of Science reject the study and President Obama’s tweet as careless incitement of a misinformed and frightened public, when in fact the sun is the main driver of climate change; not human activity or carbon dioxide (CO2).

Friends of Science hasn’t responded to DeSmog's inquiries about their methodology, and how they came up with that 65 paper number.  But we do know a lot about Friends of Science’s history and how they’ve long been closely connected to the fossil fuel industry, including tar sands giant Talisman Energy.

Six years ago, the organization came under intense scrutiny and criticism as it was revealed that its largest donor was Talisman Energy, funneling money through a since-shuttered “Science Education Fund” at the University of Calgary in order to work with then APCO flack and Heartland-tied Tom Harris on a disinformation video that was later condemned by the University.

The SourceWatch profile of Friends of Science explains the origins of the organization, as well as its dubious funding, in great depth. Similarly, Canadian journalist Mike de Souza has explored the connections between Alberta oil interests and Friends of Science.

(Also see Richard Littlemore’s post about de Souza’s reporting here on DeSmogBlog.)

For the past half decade, it has proven increasingly difficult to identify the main sources of Friends of Science funding, though their newsletters and website claim that the majority of funds are raised through private donations and supporting memberships.

For what it’s worth, that 65 paper figure is gaining traction in the deniersphere. ClimateDepot links prominently to a similar assessment by Brandon Schollenberger.

The problem with these evaluations is that Schollenberger and Friends of Science (assuming they used the same methodology to get the same number) only count the papers if the abstracts (not the body of the paper) explicitly state that “that human activity is a dominant influence or has caused most of recent climate change.”

Skeptical Science and the Consensus Project were prepared for these types of gripes. From the FAQ of the study:

What is the significance of the papers that express no position on human-caused global warming?

Naomi Oreskes predicted in 2007 that as human-caused global warming became settled science, fewer papers would see the need to explicitly endorse the consensus. For example, no research papers on geography currently need to state that the Earth is round. Our results confirm this prediction: As the field progresses, scientists feel less and less need to waste the valuable real estate of the paper’s abstract with an affirmation of settled science.
Moreover, most of papers that expressed “no position” in the abstract went on to endorse the consensus in the full paper. We determined this by asking scientists to rate the level of endorsement of their own papers - a way of rating the full paper rather than just the abstract. More than half of the papers that were rated as “no position” based on their abstract were self-rated as endorsing the consensus.

And while we’re here, it’s worth taking a closer look at the Consensus Project methodology, especially in terms of how each abstract was rated by 24 volunteers, and many climate scientist authors who self-rated their work.

How did you independently check your results?

Nobody is more qualified to judge a paper’s intent than the actual scientists who authored the paper. To provide an independent measure of the level of consensus, we asked the scientists who authored the climate papers to rate the level of endorsement of their own papers. Among all papers that were self-rated as expressing a position on human-caused warming, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. This result is consistent with our abstract ratings, which found a 97.1% consensus.

We adopted several methodologies to eliminate the potential of bias in our abstract ratings. We developed a strict methodology (see the Supplementary Material for more details) specifying how to categorise each abstract. In addition, each abstract was rated by at least two separate raters, with any conflicts resolved by a third reviewer.

The entire database of 12,464 papers is available in the Supplementary Material. We have also published all our abstract ratings, which are also available via a search form. However, we have not published individual self-ratings from the authors of the papers as the “self-rating survey” was conducted under the promise of confidentiality for all participants.

We have also created an Interactive Rating System, encouraging people to rate the papers themselves and compare their ratings to ours. We welcome criticism of our work and we expect that further scrutiny will improve the reliability of our results. By encourage more interaction, we hope people will come to appreciate the diversity and richness of climate research.

So if you happen to read in some contrarian headline somewhere that “only 65” of the papers in Cook’s 97-percent study really confirmed manmade global warming, consider the source.

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The public are largely goldfish in a bowl,who learned nothing after the smoking debates and simply cannot recognise product defense when they see it.


Not one word about the Climate scientists who contacted John Cook to say that their papers were misrepresented in this study??

Yes, that's balanced reporting =/  Thank you Desmog!


Not one word about the Climate scientists who contacted John Cook to say that their papers were misrepresented in this study??


And what climate scientists might those be?  (Aside from one economist who didn't bother to read the methodology documentation very carefully…)

Here is a partial list of scientists. I'm sure some of the names (ie; Willie Soon, for instance) will draw howls from the Desmog faithfull, haha!


Please understand; John Cook and Dana Nuticelli are about as fringe as you can get on the warmist side of the Climate battle. I would put them right up the with Marc Morano (from the skeptic side), So this “Study” is not being taken very seriously on either side. 

Its amazing how you rely on being loud and ignorant.

In your own words, you don't need any evidence to back your position.  Ergo you're a feelie.  Watch this video to get a better understanding of your position;


In any case I look forward to you digging up a statistically significant contribution to the discussion.


We've been extraordinarily lenient with your comments here because, well, you've been a frequent voice attempting to offer a contrarian perspective, and not been overly caustic.

But seriously, citing PopTech? Quoting Willie Soon just generically dismissing the study, without any substantive response or evidence at all from him or Tol or anyone else?

That's all you've got? It's growing tiresome, and we're not going to continue to allow this kind of inane banter and denialist link-bait you're so fond of lately.  

So here it is, your final invitation: put up, or, well, you know… all things in moderation. 

Cite something substantive, something, anything to counter what is clearly an overwhelming majority view in the scientific community.  

Otherwise, please, just, stop. Or we'll sadly have to show you the door. You've been here long enough to know the comment policy, and we've been extremely accommodating…. 

You'll howl censorship, I know, but honestly, you're grasping not at straws here, but the splinters of straws. 

Brendan, I do appreciate the patience you and Desmog have shown over the last couple of years. Clearly I have attempted “stir the pot” on occasion here. But it has not been as a troll but as a person who cringes at the 'deniers' of both ends of the Climate discussion.

To 'deny' that there is an ongoing debate is just illogical. Clearly Cook and Nuticelli's paper is just another attempt to establish the dubious authority that many believe comes from a statment of “Consensus”. This has not worked in the past and isn't working now.

I urge all here to look at both sides of the debate and all that that involves; ie, reading skeptic blogs and scientific papers that don't conform to YOUR idea of Climate change. At the very least you will learn a lot, at best you hone your critical thinking skills and form your own opinions, not blindly accept what someone wants you to believe.

Finally, to Brendon; Something I've never undersood about the comment policy is how so many people here get a pass with the ad hom attacks (this thread is an excellent example) but others get scolded for basically posting contrarian views.

In any case, feel free to 'show me the door' if needed. I will continue to visit and read at Desmog and many other blogs because that's what I like to do.




A truthful description of your so-called experts might well sound like an ad-hominem, but that problem is yours and theirs, the ironic consequence of their actions.

The trouble with your so-called experts' numerous incompatible versions of bastardised parodies of climate science, is that they are also incompatible with oceans of coherent, peer-reviewed evidence.

As for debate, there is no significant debate in the peer-reviewed literature about the basis for the recent anomalous warning, or many other aspects of the science.  The scientific debate is limited to minor details. Where as your so-called experts are primarily focused upon producing disinformation for the Public, which creates the illusion of scientific-debate, while being nothing of the sort, and intended to bamboozle a credulous audience.

In typical AGW denier fashion lara jorgensen shows that she is incapable of understanding what “ad hominem” means. When someone points out to a denier that they are wrong, lying or just being plain stupid it is not “ad hominem” if it is obvious to anyone that the comments are in fact true. It may be rude, it may be insulting but it is not “ad hominem”.

There is a simple solution for deniers who do not like to be referred to in such a way: become honest, do a bit of reading so you don't post rubbish and behave like an adult rather than a spoiled two year old child.

Can you mange that lara?

Lara, all you've ever done is Troll. Its like a sad half witted version of Monty Python's arguement sketch.

I've willingly looked at all the counter evidence you've offered, and that isn't much.  Your last link was to a lot of PR agents hired by oil companies.  Are you aware that many of the journals that cover your kind of material also cover UFO landing sites, and and Dog Horoscopes?


As an engineer who works in oil companies, let me assure you that we spend no money researching climate science.  Not a single penny.

I think you belong with your high school buddy Anthony Watts and his fellow conspiracy theorists.  I think you deserve the punt.

“I urge all here to look at both sides of the debate” - The problem is that you show little or no sign of having read the mainstream science, or the evidence that details the conspiracy, the individuals concerned or the network of organisations involved in the web of lies that comprises the denial industry. While the following is not science, it catalogues and chronicles the activities of the anti-science, pseudo-science and plain bullshit operations of the vested interests who are determined to undermine the science that tells us that the climate is being perturbed by human activity. Why? So that these vested interests can maintain their profits. The John Mashey Collection http://www.desmogblog.com/science-article-recognizes-john-mashey

Morner of the tilted graph fame is even more famous for his claims of having scientific evidence that dowsing really works.  A quick Google search will confirm this.

The global-warming “skeptic” community is a distinguished team indeed.

Oh the irony Lara.

1) Cook and Nuticelli have science degrees…..Andrew (Poptech) does not.

2) Everything at skeptical science is referenced with high quality references, Poptech does not. And even when it does, because of his lack of science training and degree in armchair expert, he doesnt realise that much of what he references either doesnt support his argument, or is so low in quality, it can hardly be considered to have run the gauntlent of high level peer review.

3) Cook and Nuteicelli use their own names and have nothing to hide. Even a hack on their site yielded no goodies for deniers. Poptech operates under a pseudonym and has previously demonstrated that he will go to any lenghts to smear an opponent, as happeed to one of the commenters here. What has he got to hide?

4)  Andrew (Poptech) has a list of papers he believes support his/your argument, yet it has been shown many times that scientists on his list have a) either asked to be removed from his list, or b) said their paper does not respresent what poptech thinks it does. Going by your self imposed criteria of legitimacy, do you now believe poptech to misrepresent the truth and his views are fringe and worthless like you do of Cook and Nuticelli? 

5) Marc Morano does not have a science degree and is a politician. No expertise whatsoever. You are comparing apples with oranges.

So you've got a tiny handful of the usual suspects (who have a history of being so ideologically blinded wrt climate change that they have no credibility in that field).

And as for folks like Soon eliciting howls? Howls of laughter, certainly.  You are righto on that one.  Soon may be competent within his own field of expertise, but every time he has wandered into paleoclimate/climatology he has morphed into a hapless, incompetent crank.

For an example of Soon's climate-science incompetence, Google up “Soon Baliunas 2003”.  Read through the methodology section of the paper that comes up in that search.   If you have a lower-division college-undergraduate understanding of basic Earth science and statistics, you should easily be able to flag at least a couple of “howler” whopper blunders there, blunders that would seriously ding an undergraduate student's GPA at any reputable university.

BTW, anyone who would consider Cook and Nuticelli to be in any way equivalent to Morano has to be at least a few French-fries short of a Happy Meal.