The 97% consensus among climate scientists that warming is real and man-made is one of the most effective tools for persuading the public about the need to take action, which makes it a prime target of denier attacks.
One attacker is Richard Tol, the Gremlin-besieged economist. What's particularly bizarre about Tol's attack on the consensus is that he knows it exists,having said, "The consensus is of course in the high nineties." Now, Tol apparently has a comment in response to the seminal Cook '13 consensus study, currently in review at the journal Environmental Research Letters. Tol—either confident that it will be published or worried that it will be rejected and never see the light of day—has let the cat out of the bag with a blog post and graph that claims a number of studies and their subsamples show a much smaller consensus than the 97%.
Except when you actually look at Tol's references, as Real Skeptic does in a great debunking post, you quickly see why there's a discrepancy. In some cases, Tol includes papers that don't take a position on warming at all. For others, he includes non-experts. Most egregiously, the lowest numbers come from subsamples of those who reject the consensus in the first place.
Not content to just highlight Tol's trickery, the post provides a number of quotes from the various study authors. Each is scathing and makes it clear that Tol has misrepresented their findings. Naomi Oreskes says, "As usual, he is misrepresenting scientific work," while Bart Verheggen clarifies that Tol draws out their subsample of "unconvinced" voices, meaning "some Heartland Institute staffers were also included." William Anderegg said that, "This is by no means a correct or valid interpretation of our results." Neil Stenhouse is quoted saying, "Tol's description omits information in a way that seems designed to suggest—inaccurately—that the consensus among relevant experts is low."
Peter Doran drives home the criticism with an analogy, because Tol compared the experts with the less-qualified respondents, which is "like me having a medical team tell me I need surgery…but going to my local Starbucks to get the opinion of the team of baristas and giving both recommendations the same weight."
With each of these rebuttals pointing out Tol's underhanded tactics, he's going to have to find something bigger than a gremlin to blame.
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