Group Asks NASA to Remove Dubious Climate Change Stat

Numerous scientists have criticized the '97 percent' consensus figure in recent years

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July 10, 2019

A free-market think tank formally requested that NASA remove from its website the assertion that 97 percent of scientists endorse the theory that human activity is the main driver of global climate change.

"Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position," a NASA webpage states.

The petition from the Competitive Enterprise Institute made the request under the auspices of a federal law called the Information Quality Act, which also requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create guidelines "for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies."

The letter from CEI to NASA requests that the information be removed or corrected. CEI cites numerous examples in which the "97 percent" claim has been debunked, often by rigorous, peer-reviewed academic inquiries.

For example, a 2014 paper from European academic Richard S. Tol was highly critical of the 97-percent figure.

"This claim, frequently repeated in debates about climate policy, does not stand," the abstract to Tol's paper states. "A trend in composition is mistaken for a trend in endorsement. Reported results are inconsistent and biased. The sample is not representative and contains many irrelevant papers."

NASA did not return Washington Free Beacon requests for comment at press time.

The original claim of 97 percent came in what is generally referred to as the "Cook paper" (Cook et al., 2013), which examined roughly 1200 scientific papers and then tried to categorize whether the work endorsed the theory of man-made climate change or not.

"Mainly, the problem with the studies was they didn't include the scientists who did not form an opinion, or who had no position, or who stated explicitly that they had no position," said CEI attorney Devin Watkins. "You have to include those scientists as part of the 'scientific community.'"

Several scientists featured in that study have accused Cook of taking their work out of context or misrepresenting it. Prof. Nir J. Shaviv at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem told that he rejected the premise of the Cook paper and said his own research had been misrepresented in it.

"Science is not a democracy, even if the majority of scientists think one thing (and it translates to more papers saying so), they aren't necessarily correct," Shaviv told the outlet. "Moreover,…the [97 percent] analysis itself is faulty, namely, it doesn't even quantify correctly the number of scientists or the number of papers which endorse or diminish the importance of AGW [anthropogenic global warming]."

Watkins told the Free Beacon that new guidelines to the Information Quality Act should streamline the process and hopefully create better, more understandable outcomes. NASA has 120 days to respond to the request.

Published under: Climate Change , NASA