by Avi Davis
The climate debate kicked into high gear this week when on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz, clashed swords with Sierra Club president Aaron Mair at a Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee hearing on the impact of climate change on minorities. Cruz, a seasoned prosecutor, made mincemeat out of Mair, who seemed entirely unprepared for Cruz’s questioning, falling back repeatedly on the Sierra Club’s position that 97% of climate scientists around the world support the claim of anthropogenic global warming and that the science is settled. Time and again Cruz challenged Mair to admit that satellite data over the past 18 years shows no credible evidence of a change in global temperatures and that it has forced global warming alarmists to retreat to the claim that there has been an unexpected “pause” in the projected rise in temperatures.
Cruz was relentless in demanding to know whether the Sierra Club would agree to retract its statements and change its policy if this satellite data were proven to be correct. Mair, who seemed uncomfortable and not at all confident of his position, whispered constantly to an aide who furnished him with the only answer he could muster: ” The Sierra Club’s position remains that anthropogenic global warming is settled science and is validated by a majority (97%) of world scientists.”
The questioning and stonewalling from Mair grew so preposterous that it looked as though the Sierra Club was under cross examination and had reverted to its Fifth Amendment protections, so as not to incriminate itself.
This was the point at which Cruz failed to press his advantage. The obvious next question to the floundering Mair should have been: “Well where did you get that figure of 97%?” It is a figure, after all, relied upon, not only by the Sierra Club, but by the President of the United States, his Secretary of State, the entire Democratic Party, the media, academia and the environmental NGOs who relentlessly spew it as unassailable proof that the world is being catastrophically warmed by man-made activities.
But where does the figure actually come from? Surely someone, at some point, must have conducted a survey or study to produce it?
Well, indeed, they had – and not just once. One is a 2004 opinion piece by Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes, published in Science Magazine, which claimed that of the abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, 75% supported the view that man-made activities were responsible for most of the observed warming of the earth’s atmosphere over the past 50 years. But Oreskes’ essay failed to note whether any of these abstracts at all determined that the warming was “dangerous”and it did not contain any reference to world renowned climatologists such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, Sherwood Idso or Fred Singer. Forgotten also by Orekes, was that abstracts of academic articles often fail to be substantiated by the body of the article they preface. Since she didn’t apparently read the articles she could not have truly known what they did or did not support.
Then there was a 2009 article in Eos, by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, supported by her thesis adviser Peter Doran, who reported, in her master’s thesis, the results of a two question on-line survey which found that 97% of scientists surveyed agreed that global temperatures had risen over the past 50 years and that human activity had been a contributing factor. But the survey failed to question its respondents as to whether the human factor was sufficient to constitute a problem for the future of the planet. And more importantly, only 79 respondents claimed an expertise in climate science. This was out of a total of 3,146 total respondents!
Another student, William R. Love Anderegg, this time at Stanford University, conducted a survey in 2010 through Google Scholar of 200 of the most prolific writers on climate change and found that ” 97% to 98% agreed that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the unequivocal warming.” But once again, how much of a danger this posed to the earth’s atmosphere was not determined. And of course the fact that only 200 out of the tens of thousands of climate scientists world wide were surveyed, was not dispositive of much at all.
Then of course there is the U.N’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which issues reports every six years and claims to represent the views and opinions of 2,500 climatologists world wide. Its reports have been the basis of the claim that world wide scientific opinion accepts that greenhouse gases have been the single greatest contributor to the rise of the Earth’s temperature over the past 50 years. And yet, in its Fifth Assessment Report, issued in 2013, only a handful of those 2,500 had reviewed research having to do with the key question: how much of the increase in world temperatures over the past 50 years was due to man-made activities?. Only a paltry 41 authors and editors in the crucial fifth chapter of the Report had addressed anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing.
Forgotten, neglected or discredited by the alarmists are other surveys which have come to opposing conclusions as those of the students at Stanford University and the University of Illinois. In 2010, two German scientists, Dennis Bray and Hans van Storch found that most scientists disagree with the “consensus ” on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and the projections of computer models. A 2012 survey by the American Meteorological Society found that only 39.5% of its 1,854 members accepted that man made global warming is even dangerous.
The Heartland Institute, based in Chicago, has now organized nine international conferences ( two of which I have attended) which have brought together a very wide selection of scientists from a variety of backgrounds around the world to discuss and debate anthropogenic global warming. Their consensus has been that in fact not only has global warming abated, but that man made activities contributed little to it and that the measures now being recommended by our own government, most academic institutions and other activist NGOs, (such as the Sierra Club) would do little to nothing to reverse nor forestall climate change either now or in the foreseeable future.
This, then, is the material Senator Ted Cruz had at his disposal to sweep the floor with the Sierra Club and its highly politicized agenda which aims at saddling mankind ( read- the developed nations of the world) with the responsibility for the allegedly manmade catastrophic damage to our climate. It was an opportunity invidiously lost.
Nevertheless, those in the vanguard of the effort to expose Global Warming propaganda for what it truly is – an attempt at global wealth redistribution and an opportunity for a small cadre of opportunists to make a great deal of money – should not hesitate to press again and again on the issue of where, exactly, the alarmists come up with their 97% figure.
Curiously enough, that would make for a far more conclusive debate and authoritative finding than anything that could be finally settled about climate change.
Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone. In 2010 he organized the international conference Big Footprint: Is Green the New Tyranny?which took place at UCLA in Los Angeles.