The Numbers Game: U.N. Panel Gets Its Climate Change Numbers By Hand-Picking Sympathetic Data


You know how policy progressives are always citing the consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientific experts to drive home their point that man-made climate change is well understood and “settled?”

The pool of experts who supposedly prop up progressives’ calls for ever more-ambitious environmental policies is actually a lot smaller, and its findings a lot less politicized, than pundits claim.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has a history of neglecting evidence in order to adhere to an aggressive climate change agenda, claims an affiliation with 2,500 scientific experts who all agree that the disaster-averting result acting to curb man-made global heating is worth any economic cost.

Only problem is, the number of scientists who actually have signed off on that opinion is nowhere close to the 2,500 the IPCC claims. To be sure, the IPCC has sourced isolated tidbits of its global warming puzzle from among 2,500 experts, but they don’t all agree. In fact, according to the National Post’s Lawrence Solomon, some disagree “vehemently.”

“To their embarrassment, most of the pundits and press discovered that they were mistaken — those 2,500 scientists hadn’t endorsed the IPCC’s conclusions, they had merely reviewed some part or other of the IPCC’s mammoth studies,” Solomon writes. “To add to their embarrassment, many of those reviewers from within the IPCC establishment actually disagreed with the IPCC’s conclusions, sometimes vehemently.”

The IPCC has since shifted to a newer made-for-media statistic that uses a percentage rather than a hard number. That gives the U.N. panel a lot more rhetorical wiggle room, even though the facts that lie behind its claim that “97 percent of the world’s climate scientists” agree on the causes and effects of global warming don’t support the claim itself.

Solomon points out that, in order to arrive at the “97 percent” figure, the IPCC had to cull only the opinions of only the most adamant global warming adherents from a group of scientists who responded to a 2009 online survey sponsored by the University of Illinois. A pair of sympathetic researchers led that effort, and their first order of business was excluding the wider scientific community — including “solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists and astronomers” — in favor of 10,257 scientists in fields like geology, paleontology and oceanography. The researchers didn’t factor in the respondents’ academic qualifications or their current jobs. About 1,000 of those included in the survey didn’t have a Ph.D.

Even with a group hand-selected to tell researchers what they wanted to hear, the opinions of the 3,146 people who actually answered the survey still didn’t achieve a consensus on the extent to which mankind is contributing to global warming. So the IPCC zeroed in on a subset of scientists who’d responded to the survey. There were only 77 people in that special group.

Of those 77 scientists, the IPCC then pinned down 75 who said they believed there was a direct link between human activity and climate change, with the other two dissenting — presumably so that there’d be an obligatory wacko contingent included in the final conclusion, just to make the results somewhat believable. Divide 77 into 75 and you get .974.

Voilá! That’s 97 percent.

Even if there are thousands upon thousands of scientists whose opinions on man-made global warming run the full gamut from all-out denial to all-out acceptance, the ICPP used sympathetic research to isolate a small group of people to advance its policy agenda.

Every closed system is perfect. If all the people within a group believe exactly the same thing, and all are equally willing to live with the consequences of their beliefs — no matter how absurd they may seem to outsiders — a closed system can function perfectly. In fact, that’s exactly what cults do.

But when a cult begins expecting the rest of the world to accept the faith of its believers, and asks the rest of the world to bear the cost of achieving the cult’s aims, it’s time to push back. People may play an indeterminate role in shaping the global environment in ways that are poorly understood and in ways that lack the context of human documentation over the course of the Earth’s long history. But no one in 2013 has the omniscient perspective to assume an absolutist’s position on that complex interaction of possible causes and possible effects.

Especially not the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its cultist adherents.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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