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The Overwhelming Odds Of Climate Change

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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If you listen to global warming deniers, or even much of the public, it seems like there is some stack of scientific studies somewhere that refute anthropogenic—human-caused—climate change. If someone would just let them reach into that pile and pull out a paper, we’d all see that climate change is “a hoax,” or so it seems in our fractured discourse.

But with a new report out last week showing that 97% of published papers affirm a human cause for the changing climate—piggybacking on a report showing only 24 papers out of 14,000 refute climate change as a phenomenon—you might have to spend awhile page turning; you are more likely to have a stroke than pull a negative study from the pile.

Let’s put the number of scientific studies refuting climate change into perspective with a thought experiment. Imagine shuffling all the 14,000 papers published on climate change into a large pile. These are all the things more likely to happen than randomly picking one paper out of the pile that refutes climate change. It’s more likely that:

  • You die in a car crash*
  • You’re accidentally killed at work
  • You have a stroke
  • You survive a plane crash (surprisingly likely)
  • You die of an unfortunate fall
  • A marriage on The Bachelor lasts longer than a year
  • You die of cancer

Well, that took a morbid turn**. But I think it’s useful to see the comparison. Judging by the highly vocal opposition to climate science, it certainly doesn’t seem like getting in a car accident is more likely than randomly choosing a dissenting paper from scientists.

When talking about chances, this is why it is so important to know what the background rate—how often an event occurs naturally over some time period—is. Some are deathly afraid of flight, even though it is the safest way to travel. Most of us don’t think twice before getting behind the wheel, even though it’s probably the most dangerous thing we do. Likewise, some vocal opponents of climate change will point to a handful of studies or scientists that disagree with the consensus, even though they represent a slice of the pie so small that you wouldn’t bother eating it.

But we can take the thought experiment further. Imagine that we get a hold of each scientific study of climate change used in the Powell report and throw it in a mailbag. It contains 13,950 papers, 24 of which refute climate change. I’ll let a climate change denier choose 10 papers out of the bag, removing each selection from the bag once it is picked. This is called sampling without replacement, meaning that no one will pick the same study twice. What are the chances that these ten studies will refute global warming?


You are more likely to be hit by lightning, and then an asteroid.

By comparison, what is the chance that all those 10 studies will be in support?


Of course, these numbers will be chalked up to a great government conspiracy to suppress dissenting opinions. But not only is a grand conspiracy against the odds, it’s against Occam.

This is what consensus looks like. It could be the case that all the studies supporting a warming planet are wrong, science always leaves that door open, but anthropogenic climate change remains the best explanation for a mountain of data that scientists have been pouring over for a century.

In the face of such overwhelming odds, a thousand points of insight, the only reason to doubt climate change, either as a phenomenon or human-caused, seems to be a political one. It’s a sad state of affairs when unjustifiable legislation is written and friendships are broken over a question that has an answer sitting inside a textbook.

Galileos still exist in science. Sometimes a lone proponent of a new idea turns out to be right. But people who want to use the astronomer’s example forget that he had the evidence on his side. In scientific publishing, when you have a lone Galileo standing up to a thousand others who have evidence that better explains what he sees, the singular genius argument falls apart. Among those who accept a scientific standard, the chances we are wrong about climate change are now next to nothing.

*Based on data here, here, and from the CDC, I calculated the percentages based on how many people died in 2010 and what they died from. For example, if you were one of the unfortunate to pass on in 2010, this would be the chance of dying from a certain cause (assuming that these rates are stable over the years). All were less than 1in 500, roughly equivalent to the 24/13,950 paper number.

**It’s a morbid comparison that I am making, but that is only because data on how we die is the easiest to come by. How likely it is for you to get a promotion, for example, would be impossible to calculate.

Image Credit:

Stack of paper by Jonathan Joseph Bondhus


Kyle Hill About the Author: Kyle Hill is a freelance science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Vincentrj 11:24 am 05/20/2013

    In my opinion the main problem with the whole AGW issue is in the quality of the reporting of the research. The nature of the reports and interviews of climate scientists in the media seem to be designed to create the maximum alarm in a such a biased way that only the naive can believe the claims.
    To give just one example because I’m limited in the number of characters for a post, I’m rather incredulous when I hear a climate scientist being interviewed on the problem of acidification of the oceans, and at the end of the interview I find that I am non the wiser regarding the current pH of the oceans. Are they currently alkaline, or perhaps neutral, or even slightly acidic like most soils.
    In order to find out, I have to do my own research on the internet, and find out that the estimated, average pH at the oceans’ surface has fallen from an estimated 8.179 to 8.069 during the past 250 years. A pH of 7 is neutral, and lower than 7 is acidic, for those who don’t already know.
    I also find out that the pH of the world’s oceans varies considerably, according to depth, according to location, and according to the season of the year, and that many creatures of the sea are well-used to tolerating such variation.
    I then begin to understand why the climate scientist didn’t mention such facts during his interview. His purpose is to alarm rather than inform in an unbiased way.

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  2. 2. Owl905 11:39 am 05/20/2013

    The evidence from Science is overwhelming – the published research reflects the observations, the data, and the theories.
    Where Science has failed miserably is combating the pro-pollution arguments in the Commons. The Globe will face the most extreme case of change because the ‘clean’ response was found wanting.
    Maybe we’ll get lucky – more volcanoes, more La Ninas, and continued stability of large sections of Antarctica. But the odds of those natural features paying for the ‘free lunch’ of unabated atmospheric sewage is probably about the same as the research balance:


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  3. 3. Shoshin 11:50 am 05/20/2013

    Credibility blown 7 words in. As soon as the “D” bomb is dropped there’s no point reading this any further.

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  4. 4. Shoshin 11:53 am 05/20/2013

    I guess in your world IPCC lead authors scaling back climate sensitivity estimates to get get more in line with what “D”s have been saying all along now makes them “D”‘s as well. How’s that working out for you?

    You better rethink which side of the argument is really the “D” side now.

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  5. 5. rkipling 12:13 pm 05/20/2013

    I can’t find educational background on Kyle Hill. He says he is a research fellow with the James Randi Educational foundation. Best I can tell that’s a foundation of Ghost Busters.


    Please tell us about your education in science apart from writing about science.


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  6. 6. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 1:32 pm 05/20/2013

    If you have a comment about the content of my article, let me know and I’ll be happy to try and answer it.

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  7. 7. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 1:35 pm 05/20/2013


    Are you suggesting, as I state in my article, that nearly 14,000 papers are all in collusion as to what they “should” say?

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  8. 8. Leroy 2:28 pm 05/20/2013

    “to get get more in line with what “D”s have been saying all along”

    Deniers, skeptics, “D”s or whatever you like to call them have not been “saying all along” that climate models are off by a few percentage points. Wishful thinking.

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  9. 9. sault 2:28 pm 05/20/2013


    Watts proves yet again that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Using the Cook et al. methodology, this new paper would undoubetedly been among the 97% that endorses the position that human CO2 emissions are causing climate change. But then he does some ridiculous chest-thumping by saying that “the consensus is slipping a bit”.

    And this paper uses a VERY suspicious method to handle ocean heat uptake during the 2002 – 2011 period while ignoring all the heat that went in between 1970 and 2001:

    “The Nature Geoscience study derives ΔQ using the change in estimated 0–2000 m ocean heat content (OHC) – which accounts for most of the Earth system heat uptake – from the start to the end of the relevant decade (or 1970–2009), whereas I computed a linear regression slope estimate using data for all years in the period I took (2002–11). Whilst I used the NODC/NOAA OHC data, which corresponds to Levitus et al. (2012), here, for the entire 0–2000 m ocean layer, the Nature Geoscience study splits that layer between 0–700 m and 700–2000 m.”

    If he’s corresponding with a known charlatan and fossil fuel apologist like Watts, how can we know if that estimate is accurate? And it’s HI-LAR-IOUS that you shun climate modeling when it doesn’t reinforce your beliefs, but when a single study comes along that does, the denier choir (with Watts at the helm) starts singing its praises even though it shows that WE STILL NEED TO CUT CO2 EMISSIONS RAPIDLY! That’s right, the climate sensitivities it puts forth are still troubling, especially since we are showing no signs of slowing down our burning of fossil fuels. While a slightly lower climate sensitivity might buy us some time, the ridiculously short time interval in this study GUARANTEES that the strong climate feedback identified by the rest of the climate science community weren’t incorporated into the study.

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  10. 10. mkelter 2:56 pm 05/20/2013

    Mr. Hill,

    Did you really read the study by John Cook,, or are you taking’s summary as definitive?

    If you read carefully, you would discover that Mr. Cook offers a statistical analysis of abstracts–not actual papers. Furthermore, the study does in fact conclude that 97.2% of the abstracts that offered an opinion concur with AGW. That is about as far as your accuracy goes with respect to the opinion above.

    In reality, 66.4% of the abstracts reviewed offered NO OPINION on global warming, leaving 33.6% of the papers that did offer an opinion. It is of this 33.6% that offered an opinion where you jump to the inaccurate conclusion that 97.2% of published papers THAT OFFERED AN OPINION support AGW.

    You really need to read the whole article before jumping to conclusions, just as the AGW community needs to look at more than polar bears floating on ice before concluding that CO2 is the cause of climate change. My respect goes to the 66.4% of researchers who approach scientific conclusion with appropriate levels of caution. It’s hard to get excited about the 34.6% who jump to conclusions just because uncalibrated model results conclude impending disaster. So far this minority of researchers haven’t shown results which match the reality of our current climate.

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  11. 11. rkipling 3:09 pm 05/20/2013

    Ok, he does’t want us to know about his studies. Must not be in science. Science brought to us by journalists again. Done with this author.

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  12. 12. Shoshin 3:20 pm 05/20/2013

    14,000 papers say what exactly? That man affects climate? I would agree with that statement myself. The issue is to what degree does mankind’s CO2 production impact global climate. Asking an honest, focused question makes me a “D”.

    If the “A”s would ask an honest question of people they would be shocked at how few agree with them. It is intellectual laziness at best or intentional obfuscation at worst that requires that “A”s not ask straight questions and drives their attempts to demonize , marginalize and shout down individuals who question their “science”.

    Show me which of the 14,000 papers that clearly demonstrate the mechanism that amplifies CO2′s affects. All IPCC models use an ASSUMED amplification mechanism that has NEVER been isolated or demonstrated in nature.

    How about blogging on that issue? What exactly is the CO2 amplification mechanism? How does it work? What is the physics behind it? How have we demonstrated that it is real? What are it’s limits of it’s operation? Is the effect linear? Logarithmic? Exponential? I can tell you how many papers or the “14,000″ have addressed these fundamental issues.


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  13. 13. Shoshin 3:28 pm 05/20/2013

    Sault, Cook’s juvenile, misleading and pedantic survey was debunked in nano-seconds. Only in your world does 33% = 97%. Two thirds of the people did not agree with Cook’s assertions. Explain to me how 33% = 97%. Cook’s latest survey made him a bigger joke than he already was. It rates right up there with RFK’s assertion that AL Jazeera didn’t buy Al Gore’s station with “Dirty Oil Money” because Qatar produces some natural gas. Utterly insane comment.

    PS. I find the 97% “convenient” as it happens to agree perfectly with the Urban Myths that surround CO2. What are the chances of that? Apparently 100%.

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  14. 14. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 3:47 pm 05/20/2013


    The position of the 14,000 papers I reference is that the planet is warming at an accelerating rate never before seen in the history that we can uncover. The 4,000 papers that mention a cause of GW referenced in the new report show that 97% of publishing scientists agree that this warming is human-caused.

    The “amplification mechanism” that makes CO2 such important gas is the greenhouse effect, the physics of which we’ve known about for centuries. You can demonstrate this mechanism with a simple experiment.

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  15. 15. singing flea 4:07 pm 05/20/2013

    While this article is anecdotal to the facts it won’t do anything to sway the opinion of someone who votes by party or worse, religious beliefs. The problem is that good science is a result of careful observation and applied mathematics which is something politics and religion simple cannot do.

    For example I am a very open minded news reader. I browse Fox, CNN and the Huffington post every day, just to mention a few. I particularly relish The Drudge Report. My reasons for liking Matt Drudge is because he doesn’t claim to be a journalist. In fact he is no more a journalist then the editor of your average supermarket tabloid or the Onion. What he does do is repackage the news for idiots but he figured out early on in the blogosphere that half the people in the country are below average IQ and he links to articles that appeal to them. This is the same crowd that buys the nonsense his advertisers sell(just like like News Max does, need I say more?). Now, if you counted the pro AGW articles Matt linked too vs. the con articles he linked too over the past ten years you would find the reciprocal of the figures cited in this article.

    Does that make Matt Drudge a scientist? If you can’t answer that question then you fall into the category of people Matt is trying to appeal too.

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  16. 16. NeuroRu 4:38 pm 05/20/2013

    Those of you who still think global warming is a conspiracy, please read Merchants of Doubt. The same situations were going on with people denying that a hole was forming in the ozone layer or that tobacco causes cancer. The corporations which would lose the most if the truth came out worked very hard to instill doubt in people. This is still going on with AGW. Even if you can’t be totally convinced, the consequences for inaction if GW is real is much more dire than taking action if it is not.

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  17. 17. mkelter 5:44 pm 05/20/2013

    NeuroRu: Merchants of Doubt cuts both ways with Global Warming. I can point out that the Medieval Church and its legions of “scientific experts” tried to silence Galileo’s theory of heliocentricity, much as the UN and US government’s legions of “scientific experts” are trying to do with those who question AGW.

    There are plenty of historical examples that show that politicized mainstream science often gets it wrong. Think about Eugenics, a crisis of the gene pool leading to the deterioration of the human race. This theory was all the rave of the science and political communities, including Oliver Wendall Holmes, Teddy Rooseveldt, Luther Burbank, Alexander Graham Bell, Leland Stanford, and others. Pop-science, backed with government money, got that one wrong.

    Al Gore may have won a Nobel Prize for Global Warming, but Antonio Moniz also won a Nobel Prize for lobotomies–a practice that is increasingly recognized as dangerous and medically unsound.

    Pouring scorn on those who take a different scientific approach than the government elites casts a horrible pall over scientific research. Lately, AGW advocates own the greatest guilt for this unprofessional conduct. Science will be vastly improved if we quit saying “the science is settled” when it clearly is not.

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  18. 18. konagold 6:12 pm 05/20/2013

    I must have missed the part in collage where the scientific method included odds making.

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  19. 19. nonya700 6:58 pm 05/20/2013

    Total hogwash…as has been explained on many numerous websites. 2/3rds of all the papers in the process have absolutely NO position on global warming what so ever.

    The non-science oriented author of this piece is lying with statistics.

    Of the papers cited only 65 take a position that global warming is the dominantly driven by human influence.
    So using his own logic…you have less then 1/2 of 1% of grabbing a paper that explicitly says humans are the cause of global warming.

    So therefor we have a “consensus” that humans are not the primary driver of Global warming. At least using the same ridiculous statistical methodology employed by the author.

    It’s completely embarrassing that this man is allowed to be anywhere near a keyboard. Does he have any qualifications in any scientific field? ….at all?

    Does he even understand basic ideas of mathematics and science in the first place?

    I have a feeling he has no such qualifications. Any honest person would see that Cooke et al. has now been completely discredited.

    But if you are not scientifically minded…and instead are ideologically driven…well then you come to the conclusion of this author, and you can twist the facts to fit your pre-determined B.S.

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  20. 20. nonya700 7:09 pm 05/20/2013

    So I did a little research…turns out this dude, Has a bachelors degree in Environmental engineering…and is seeking a master degree in “communication”

    So in other words…he doesn’t know crap about physics or the actual science to which he speaks…and instead is completely ideologically driven.

    Can we get a real scientist please?

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  21. 21. zstansfi 7:49 pm 05/20/2013

    I actually have to entirely disagree with this argument.

    It is simply not true that we can calculate the probability that “climate change is real” from the probability of “selecting a paper
    from the scientific literature which argues that climate change is real”. Such a claim has absolutely no scientific validity.

    It may indeed be true that “the chances we are wrong about climate change are now next to nothing”, but it is not possible to derive this conclusion simply
    by citing the total number of papers which agree.

    Let me put this another way:

    If science derived its validity–that is, it’s ability to predict things about reality–from some kind of consensus poll of scientific opinion, then
    science would literally be no better than a modern, esoteric clergy.

    In contrast, the validity of climate science derives from the content and quality of empirical evidence displayed in the literature, not the sheer amount of opinions. If there is a scientific consensus, it exists because the evidence is solid and relatively unequivocal.

    Also, please keep in mind how the above argument distorts the reality of how science is practiced. When there is a scientific consensus, it is very difficult to publish a paper which argues against that consensus. Even papers which fail to support, or present no relevant data to inform the validity of climate change probably pay homage to this conclusion. This effect clearly dilutes the value of discussing the pure volume of supporting opinion.

    Let’s stop ramming “scientific consensus” down the throats of disbelievers and work a little more on enhancing scientific literacy.

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  22. 22. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 7:50 pm 05/20/2013


    Papers that did not have a position on the cause of climate change were not included in the survey because the authors wanted to know the percentage of papers that did have a position, and what that position was. This is perfectly reasonable considering that other papers could have been looking at effects or consequences or mechanisms and not necessarily causes. And you will note that I did not deal with the 4,000 papers affirming a human cause. Then your criticism about my math would be valid, but I used the wholesale rejection of global warming as my benchmark, as in the Powell report.

    So it’s not that “2/3rds of all the papers in the process have absolutely NO position on global warming what so ever,” it’s that those papers were not studying the cause of climate change, and can’t be included in the math.

    And looking to the recent report which you criticize, 32.6% of surveyed papers endorsed AGW, meaning around 4,000 papers. This is nowhere near your 65 number. The extrapolations you make from this error, about my education and responsible distance from a keyboard, are therefore unwarranted.

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  23. 23. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 7:52 pm 05/20/2013



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  24. 24. NeuroRu 7:53 pm 05/20/2013


    You are seriously going to use medieval society as an example to rebut with? I’m pretty certain culture, science, etc has progressed significantly since then. It would be a MASSIVE conspiracy if all of these scientist are publishing findings for AGW that aren’t true and quite frankly I don’t think scientists are social enough to pull that off (I can say that because I’m a chemist).

    Yes, the whole thing is politicized, of course it is, because unfortunately politicians are the ones who can create policies that will actually help the problem. You can’t blame politics for this one.

    Those who deny the problem usually cherry pick the handful of scientists and results that don’t agree, because of a political ideology that favors corporations and greed over people. Whatever you believe, what harm could come from reducing emissions? Cleaner air? Reduced dependence on foreign oil? Spending less money on gasoline? What is the harm of not doing anything if it is true? It could be an epic catastrophe. You have to be a truly calloused person to not care what Earth future generations have to live with. Go ahead, hedge your bets.

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  25. 25. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 8:00 pm 05/20/2013


    At no point did I saw that a simple majority of papers decides a scientific concept, those are for the papers themselves to work out. It just so happens that the overwhelming majority of those papers link the changing climate to human activity.

    Also, your comment: “it is very difficult to publish a paper which argues against that consensus” is completely false. Papers can and have challenged scientific consensus in the past, but they have solid evidence to support them. Papers that reject climate change are few and far between because all the lines of evidence that we have point to the same conclusion.

    So no a consensus does not mean scientific fact, but it does mean that those who have looked at the evidence all come to a similar conclusion. All science leaves a door open for new evidence to arrive, but until then we go with what we know. We know climate change is happening.

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  26. 26. Chris Ho-Stuart 8:12 pm 05/20/2013

    In the interests of accuracy: Cook et al does not say 97% of papers confirm anthropogenic global warming; but rather that 97% OF THE PAPERS WHICH ADDRESS CAUSES confirm anthropogenic global warming.

    This messes up some of your numbers and analogies.

    Specifically. They examined 12465 papers. (Not 14000). Eliminated those with no abstract, or not on climate, or not peer reviewed, left 11944. The abstracts of all these were examined and of these: 1% rejected or were uncertain, 32.6% accepted, and 66.4% expressed no position. So the 97% is not a fraction of all the papers, but rather of the 4014 papers that expressed a position.

    Results were checked with a self-rating by authors, for 2142 papers. This considered the whole paper rather than just the abstract, and only 35.5% self ratings expressed no position; but as with abstract examination, 97% of the 1381 papers that expressed a position endorsed anthropogenic global warming.

    It’s a safe bet that the majority of papers which do not either confirm or deny the anthropogenic papers are by people who do in fact recognize the primary causes as anthropogenic. But most of the papers do not actually state that explicitly in the abstract, and a large proportion don’t endorse AGW explicitly anywhere in the text.

    (Their usual target audience does not need this. The results of Cook et al are totally unsurprising to people who actually work on climate. the target audience is really the wider public, as is your blog comment.)

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  27. 27. Chris Ho-Stuart 8:18 pm 05/20/2013

    Oops. Sorry Kyle; I missed that you were looking at another report (by Powell) for some of the numbers.

    Be that as it may, you still can’t actually say “97% of published papers affirm a human cause for the changing climate”. Many of them simply don’t bother; it’s not an issue any more in the world of science except for a distinctly crankish fringe.

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  28. 28. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 8:35 pm 05/20/2013

    Chris Ho-Stuart,

    Thanks for picking up on the distinction. However, though you are right that some papers do not address the cause of climate change, the ones that explicitly do are 97% in agreement. As you say, many don’t bother, but we want the ones that do, and on AGW they are clear.

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  29. 29. Chris Ho-Stuart 9:01 pm 05/20/2013

    Kyle, thanks; I was too quick in my first comment and I agree with your response here.

    Looking again more carefully at your blog, the point that still jars is where you speak of drawing 10 papers without replacement from the 13950 surveyed by Powell. (I can’t see where 13974 comes from.) You speak of the chance that all 10 papers will support AGW as 97%. IMO it would be better to say the chance that none of the ten will reject AGW is about 98.3%.

    Heck, even drawing 100 papers would still get no rejections more than 84% of the time.

    Calculation: combin(13926,10)/combin(13950,10) = 0.9829

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  30. 30. mkelter 9:14 pm 05/20/2013

    Hi NeuroRu:

    Give me a break. You don’t really buy into all that corporate and greedy people thing do you?

    Of course those things exist, but sometimes I’d rather give my money to greedy corporations that spend money in my neighborhood than to greedy governments that spend the money in D.C.

    What’s that got to do with Global Warming other than to define who scams who.

    It has nothing to do at all with cleaner emissions, better fuel economy, and national production? Those are goals everybody agrees upon–greedy government and greedy corps. No difference! Except to say that the greedy corporations are more apt to get the work done faster than the greedy Feds–and probably at a cheaper price if they’re allowed to cut Federal Paperwork requirements as part of the deal. It’s really so simple that even a Caveman could do it.

    We have so many things that need to get done in our Civilization that, as an Engineer, I think we need to spend out meager resource on first before we jump off into the truly unknown of CO2 and long-term climate change. Too much new information is emerging that appears to make the investment in climate-change programs look not-too-profitable on a benefit-cost analysis.

    Keeping in mind that wealthy societies generally have better environment/capita than do poor societies. Which is slightly off-train-of-thought, but offered as another dig in favor of the Private Sector and Local Government. But, I digress. . .

    . . .Intellectually I’m not ready to take a leap over any sort of tipping point set using the proceeds of government funds.

    And no, I don’t where an aluminum cone on my head.

    From my observations of environmental studies performed by the Federal Government and some of their contractors, I’ll take the local team of small governments and corporate experts any day. We get our science done at half the cost, and a fraction of the paperwork and politics as our Federal brethren.

    It’s not that they’r not smart. . .it’s that they’re not as smart as they try to make you think they are. These are the 4000 believers out of 14,000 authors of abstracts on climate change.

    If I were a real aluminum foil whacko, I would suggest that the 10,000 authors that gave no opinion on AGW were afraid of being audited by the IRS. But I would never suggest something that silly.

    The bottom line is this: Don’t underestimate us skeptics. Some of us might be Southern and speak a little slow, but don’t confuse that for stupidity. We do have flush toilets and Universities down here these days.

    So keep it Civil. Who knows, someday in the middle of the next mini-ice-age, you might need to a redneck friend from the South when you tire of shoveling snow.

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  31. 31. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 9:14 pm 05/20/2013

    Chris Ho-Stuart,

    You are right, the report surveyed a total 13,950 papers not 13,974, and I updated the post accordingly (the numbers will still be the same given their enormous magnitudes).

    I like your calculation. I did the same but with rejecting papers (thereby limiting the amount I could sample) in order to bring it in line with the vital statistics I mentioned in the post.

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  32. 32. Jason7070 9:15 pm 05/20/2013

    If climatology was a hard science, you’d not need 14,000 papers, only one paper would suffice. Einstein did not need 14,000 papers on photoelectric effect to win the Nobel prize (then again, Obama needed nothing, so advantage Obama). There’s obviously a gross inflation and repetition of papers if all of these papers are suggesting AGW. What’s the net information content in these papers? That said, I much doubt that mere repetition is the whole story. More likely, these are the papers in or related to climatology not suggesting non-A GW. If so, there’s a big difference and it’s disingenuous to present them as suggesting AGW and contrasting that number against papers suggesting non-A GW or non-GW. After all, there are, to my knowledge (which, as you will see, is “omni”), zero papers concluding that I am not god. Thus, probability of randomly picking a paper that concludes I am not god is zero. The obvious conclusion then is that I am god.

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  33. 33. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 9:19 pm 05/20/2013


    One paper is not enough to characterize the changes of the entire planet’s climate over the last few thousand years studied by thousands of scientists. If you think replication means “gross inflation” then you are missing out on a key aspect of the scientific method. Wouldn’t you want a study to be validated by other scientists? Repetition is power, not a weakness.

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  34. 34. AeroNick 9:25 pm 05/20/2013


    So, engineers know nothing of physics? What a wildly ignorant assertion. As an engineer, I work with scientists and have many skills that they do not, and they have some I do not. Most educated people in the field (of which it is apparent you are not) will tell you that in addition to their native jobs, there are engineers that do science and scientists that do engineering. Look over a bachelor’s degree curriculum in physics and one in environmental engineering, and then tell me who is more qualified to comment on climate change.

    You comment so often on his lack of qualification, and present no evidence of your own, that is clear you have no argument besides engaging in ad-hominem.

    What is your background? And for that matter, those who keep harping on Kyle Hill as not being a “real” scientist, what are your backgrounds? I suspect you have no qualifications whatsoever.

    As to the evidence, it’s tiring hearing about how discredited the paper by Cook et al is. Even if it’s discredited, the consensus is clear, the reasoning and conclusions are obvious. Man burns fuel. Carbon dioxide escapes as a product of combustion and gets trapped in the atmosphere. The Earth warms due to the greenhouse effect. Repeat process. It’s not rocket science. (Coming from an Aerospace Engineer).

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  35. 35. thevillagegeek 9:27 pm 05/20/2013

    mkelter is playing the Galileo gambit, that tired old horse that gets trotted out every time someone has no evidence-based case that would pass examination. It’s all a conspiracy, so we have to listen to everything, especially their half-baked notions. That’s why it’s worth either 20 or 30 points on the crackpot index.

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  36. 36. thevillagegeek 9:32 pm 05/20/2013

    Using the Galileo Gambit without a lot of solid supporting evidence puts one in the fine company of Nibiru doomsdayers, Face-on-Mars nuts, Yeti hunters, cold fusion promoters, 9/11 Truthers, Birthers, and perpetual motion hucksters. If you buy into those, do I ever have a 5-minute-a-day exercise miracle plan for you…

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  37. 37. Trent1492 10:43 pm 05/20/2013


    Trent Says: I like how you and others of your elk continually confuse baseless assertions with evidence. It is almost charming. /s

    Are you at all aware that you can look at every piece of evidence that Cook et al present and do your own ratings?

    How about the fact, that as Chris Ho Stuart, has repeatedly pointed out you clowns have predictably failed basic English comprehension. From the abstract of the paper that you have undoubtedly never read:

    “Among abstracts *EXPRESSING A POSITION on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.”

    It is also of no surprise to anyone that this study using a different methodology came to the same position as several other peer reviewed studies. Studies such as:

    Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.

    “Which found that 97.4% of relevant scientist who had published in the past from five years (2004 -2009) agreed that climate change is under way and human induced.”

    Also in 2009 another survey of actively publishing climate researchers found:

    “Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate
    researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i)97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and
    scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.”

    Expert Credibility:

    Then we have the first survey done back 2004 in which one researcher could not find any papers contradicting the consensus.

    The Scientific Consensuson Climate Change:

    So in short what we have is a body of work that falsifies the claim that science deniers often make that their is great controversy in the scientific community about the cause of the current warming period.

    We would not need these surveys every couple of years if the science deniers would stop making these false claims about the scientific consensus.

    *Capitalized for the hard of learning.

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  38. 38. thevillagegeek 11:05 pm 05/20/2013

    Those odds are almost as long as the odds that an episode of Jersey Shore will be intellectually engaging, or that Kim K. will do something to even remotely merit the tabloid attention.

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  39. 39. engineer238 11:33 pm 05/20/2013

    I am not suggesting that climate change is a hoax, as clearly humans have an impact. It should however, be pointed out that the premise of your entire article is fundamentally flawed. It is a fallacy to suggest in science that the quantity of articles supporting a theory or idea means that its true or accurate. Often times grant funding relies on frequent publication, especially when coming from a government source. In academia, publications supporting the project may sometimes be only loosely related to the project. When the source is private, such as a company quality over quantity of publication is more preferred. It is important to understand the mindset of a scientific community. If a scientist publishes a paper supporting the ideas of the agency issuing the grant they will get more money; however, if a scientist publishes a paper that discredits the ideas or beliefs of that agency they are likely to receive less money if any. This creates an incentive to gear ones work toward the mainstream when pursuing government funding, creating a disadvantage for novel and paradigm altering ideas even if they are correct. Scientist also are motivated by prestige amongst other scientist. If a scientist comes up with a novel idea that is rejected by the greater scientific community it will be difficult to gain prestige and to find grant money. It does not matter if that idea is correct or not, the views of the community hold a lot of weight. With this information in mind, to support ideas about climate change we must look objectively at the quality of the work not the quantity. If the articles that refute climate change are much more rigorous and of higher caliber then they hold more weight than papers that support climate change but are of low quality.

    A thought that we should all consider in discussing climate change is the importance of those scientist who would deviate from the mainstream scientific community. Science should not be a single-minded cult. Those who challenge current thinking on climate change force the rest of the scientific community to rethink its preconception or misconception, leading to a greater understanding all around. Not to be cliche but the theory of relativity provided this challenge for scientists in the early 20th century and opened the door for the nuclear age and radiation physics. We should all try to keep an open mind to any dissenting opinions on climate change whether we philosophically agree with them or not. Remember science is objective.

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  40. 40. rkipling 11:36 pm 05/20/2013


    What do large deer(elk) have to do with this conversation?

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  41. 41. rkipling 12:18 am 05/21/2013

    Now I get it!!

    SciAm Digital offers this as their version of

    Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

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  42. 42. Shoshin 12:25 am 05/21/2013

    Kyle Hill:

    Your response to my question with the “Greenhouse Effect” is a non-response. I hope that you really don’t believe that that was an answer to my question.

    The crux of the issue that all Alarmists miss is that there is a fundamental and inescapable physical disconnect between what computer models model and how CO2 behaves in the atmosphere.

    The disconnect is this: With each doubling of CO2, the incremental heat trapping effect is much lower than the effect of the doubling before it. In other words, climate sensitivity to CO2 is far lower than all IPCC models predict. The reason for this is that all previous models used fudge factors and assumptions that attempted to tie temperature trends to CO2 and only CO2, nothing else. When temperatures flattened (as they have in the past 16 years)despite increasing CO2, something was clearly out of whack. And now increasing numbers of climate scientists are acknowledging that their assumptions regarding climate sensitivity to CO2 were far too high.

    14,000 papers based on results from fundamentally flawed computer models were just a sad waste of time and money.

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  43. 43. Vincentrj 1:53 am 05/21/2013

    The reason I find this issue of AGW so interesting is that it throws together so many different disciplines dealing with an enormously complex subject with strong elements of chaos, with huge time spans going back millions of years, and lesser time spans predicting outcomes a hundred years or more into the future, which are based largely on the inevitably flawed computer models.

    Such conditions do not lend themselves to the normal, sound practices of scientific verification and falsification which all reliable science must require. The ground is thus ripe for all sorts of unsubstantiated claims, and as a consequence, confusion reigns.

    Now it’s clear that there are many aspects of climate science that can be verified. I don’t think that anyone would refute that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, for example. It can be demonstrated in the laboratory. But so is water vapour a greenhouse gas, and in total the greenhouse effect of water vapour is far more significant than the greenhouse effect of the miniuscule quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Some may argue that as CO2 levels increase, contributing to a slight global warming, levels of water vapour will also increase, thus causing additional warming. That’s reasonable.

    However, others will claim that as water vapour increases, cloud cover will also increase, and cloud cover is very effective in blocking the heat from the sun, stopping it reaching the ground. That’s also reasonable.

    But I imagine that the complexity and variability of cloud cover is so enormous, depending on changing weather patterns which have numerous influences apart from any slight warming due to CO2, that it is impossible to calculate with any certainty and accuracy, the magnitude of this counterbalancing albedo effect of increasing cloud cover, just to mention one complex element of this enormously complex scenario of climate change.

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  44. 44. Shoshin 11:05 am 05/21/2013

    More evidence that Cook’s 97% is a fake. These authors were quoted by Cook as publishing papers supportive of AGW, but when contacted by other researchers following up on Cook’s assertions they state that Cook was wrong in his claims.

    Cook’s paper is more like the Woody Allen movie where two people (Cook and Lewandosky) are standing in a movie line waxing and pontificating on what the author meant. The author, who happens to be standing in line, turns around and says “You are both fools. You know nothing of my work” and Woody Allen looks at the camera and says ” Oh, would that it were so easy…”

    But in the end scheme, consensus is meaningless in science anyway.

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  45. 45. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 11:58 am 05/21/2013


    Watt contacted three authors who reject AGW to see if they agreed on Cook’s interpretation. I don’t see how you can dismiss the other 3,997 studies surveyed from these three anecdotes.

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  46. 46. Shoshin 3:28 pm 05/21/2013

    I have a tough time seeing how you can then state that 3,997 were accurate. Your comment makes no sense. These authors were claimed by Cook as ENDORSING AGW when in fact they did no such thing. Cook’s claims about these three are fraudulent. If we were talking about a corporation making three fraudulent statements in it’s annual report someone would be going to jail.

    ONE is enough as it shows the surveyors intent to mislead. The question you need to ask yourself is why you need to justify this obvious fraud to yourself. My guess is that you feel that AGW issue is so important and compelling that some stretching of the truth or even outright lies and frauds (ie, Glieck’s fraudulent behavior) are OK. If that’s your view, you have to live with it, but it isn’t science. Science knows nothing of values and morals. Nor should it.

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  47. 47. MARCHER 4:15 pm 05/21/2013


    Three out of 4,000 is not fraud, it is an error of less than 1%. It is nowhere near enough to prove anything.

    But math, like reality itself must is clearly biased against tin foil hat aficionados.

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  48. 48. Shoshin 6:58 pm 05/21/2013

    Three out of a small sample number is not an error of 1%. It is impossible for you to make a claim like that based on the sample size (which is certainly significantly less than all 4,000. What if his sample size was three? That is 100% of the authors contacted. Your math/stats analysis is not robust.

    Again, I will repeat my earlier question: Which of the 12,000 papers elucidate and demonstrate the CO2 amplifying mechanism? All climate researchers and modelers know that CO2 all by itself is too weak to cause anything other than 1.5 degrees of warming by doubling from 400 to 800ppm. The amplifying fudge factor is used to bridge this gap between what CO2 can actually do and what the models assume it does. So far no researchers have found this amplifier. If one ressearch group did, they would certainly win a Nobel Prize, and as a working scientist, I would applaud, as a thorny and potentially fatal flaw in AGW hypothesis would have been explained.

    But none have. Why is that? Instead of engaging in ad hominem attacks, how about answering a question that would change the mind of the vast majority of skeptics?

    That is how science works, present hard testable data. Calling names may bully someone in the playground but it doesn’t bother me.

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  49. 49. mkelter 9:34 pm 05/21/2013

    Marcher: Three out of 4,000 is probably just the tip of the iceberg. . .AND. . .3,997 out of 14,000 still is NOT 97%, Mr. Hill.

    BTM: for you alarmists (that would be you thevillagegeek) that like to ascribe knuckle-dragging and tin-foil hats to those who would dare buck trendy pop-science, do you think Idso, Scaffetta, and Shaviv fit that category?

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  50. 50. MARCHER 11:16 pm 05/21/2013

    Shoshin: Three out of 4,000 IS an error of LESS than 1%.

    Again, I know reality is biased against you, but that’s your problem, not mine.

    melter: You don’t have enough evidence to conclude a probability, just a wild fact free guess.

    And replace “pop-science trend” with established scientific fact acknowledged by every credible scientific institution on the planet.

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  51. 51. Shoshin 11:14 am 05/22/2013

    Marcher: All 4000 papers authors were not polled. I think that I’ll just leave your comment without further discussion as an excellent example of how mathematically challenged you are.

    But perhaps, your math Is the NEW NORMAL Math, approved by the LMAO (Leninist-Marxist-Alarmist Organization).

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  52. 52. MARCHER 6:01 pm 05/22/2013


    No, they were not polled, your tin foil hat wearing Messiah cherry picked three denialists and claimed it was “proof” Cook’s study was wrong.

    And when you respond to a comment, you have not left it without further discussion. More proof of how logically challenged you are.

    But wear that tin foil hat proudly as you give yet another histrionic rant condemning the consensus of every credible scientific organization on the planet.

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  53. 53. kebil 10:17 pm 05/22/2013

    A lot of commentary hear that talks a lot about statistics and ways to interpret a few numbers, but very little real substance. The basic science of climate change is hard to refute – carbon dioxide is transparent with regards to much of the sun’s light, but much less so to infrared – a very simple model of heat trapping.

    Rather, most of these comments seem to be of the type of tearing down the author over several points that are really not important in the overall climate debate. Seems more like slinging dirt and raising dust to obscure the real, and very important, dangers we face.

    Obviously many of you have a lot of time to read not so important papers, and even more time to use a popular science magazine to spout decidedly non-scientific opinions (I read no real facts of substantive basis, other than maybe pointing out some small criticisms of a blog entry).

    Reminds me of hired guns sent in to sound authoritative, cast spurious doubt onto an issue you don’t address, and wasting far too much time arguing your points ad nauseam.

    Thaniks Soshin, for the levity. I had to laugh at the (I assume intended) irony of your labelling when you accused the global warming side of ad hominem attacks and of a paucity of data. Other than imagining either a vast conspiracy of scientists all wanting to push a global warming agenda (which is a strange claim, as no scientist gains recognition for confirming widely held beliefs and prevailing models, theories, and actual facts, but rather, for coming up with something new, exciting, and different), or a great controversy amongst climate scientists (which is it, great controversy or overwhelming conspiratorial homogeneity?).

    Seriously though, do you guys share talking points? Do you get paid per word by some gloomy corporation, public relations firm, or cabal of lobbyists (or all of the above), are you all the same person (which would explain your lack of originality amongst you)?

    For a magazine that promotes science, it is strange to find such a gaggle of commentators who are so anti-science. And yes, I am committing the ad hominem fallacy, but how else to respond to person(s) whose entire theoretical framework for interpreting the science is fallacious?

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  54. 54. Shoshin 11:55 pm 05/23/2013

    If you came to SCIAM to discuss science, you will find that it, like Elvis, has left the building.

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  55. 55. Poptech 10:01 am 05/25/2013

    97% Study Falsely Classifies Scientists’ Papers, according to the scientists that published them

    The paper, Cook et al. (2013) ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature’ searched the Web of Science for the phrases “global warming” and “global climate change” then categorizing these results to their alleged level of endorsement of AGW. These results were then used to allege a 97% consensus on human-caused global warming.

    To get to the truth, I emailed a sample of scientists who’s papers were used in the study and asked them if the categorization by Cook et al. (2013) is an accurate representation of their paper. Their responses are eye opening and evidence that the Cook et al. (2013) team falsely classified scientists’ papers as “endorsing AGW”, apparently believing to know more about the papers than their authors.

    “It would be incorrect to claim that our paper was an endorsement of CO2-induced global warming.” – Craig D. Idso

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