GREEN

The Saddest, Wrongest 'Fact' In Tony Abbott's Climate Speech

There's a 97 percent chance that Abbott is wrong about the scientific consensus.

10/10/2017 2:03 PM AEDT | Updated 10/10/2017 4:00 PM AEDT
Toby Melville / Reuters
If he'd understood the concept of consensus better, perhaps he'd still have the top job.

Tony Abbott doesn't accept climate change science. This we already knew, and there was further confirmation overnight in the former Prime Minister's speech to skeptic group The Global Warming Policy Foundation.

There were some unusual moments in the speech. The first came early on, when Abbott inferred that belief in climate change science has become a substitute for the traditional Christian theology to which fewer and fewer of us subscribe.

"Only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia -- that have forgotten the scriptures about man created 'in the image and likeness of God' and charged with 'subduing the earth and all its creatures' -- could have made such a religion out of it.

Abbott was basically saying we've lost faith in God and climate change is our surrogate. The man is entitled to his world view.

The real problem was where he got the simple facts on the consensus on climate science horribly wrong.

Here's what Abbott said about the consensus:

"Beware the pronouncement, 'the science is settled'. It's the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages.

Almost as bad is the claim that '99 per cent of scientists believe' as if scientific truth is determined by votes rather than facts."

Votes? What votes?

Abbott seemed to be suggesting that the 97 percent consensus (the 99 was a mistake by Abbott, it's actually 97) was based on some bogus poll.

Wrong.

There was never any poll of scared scientists who pretended to be in furious agreement about climate change lest they be branded as heretics. In fact, the paper which first identified the 97 percent consensus was a 2013 survey of the scientific literature that was already out there.

And what 97 percent of that scientific literature effectively said was: it's happening and we're causing it.

By the way, you can read the famous 97 percent consensus paper here. You can also listen to our podcasts with the lead author of the study, John Cook, here or here. One line that really stood out in our conversations with Cook was when he said:

"To have that strength [97 percent] of agreement means that you're looking at something which is rock solid. It's based on mountains of evidence, and many different independent lines of evidence. The fact that humans are causing global warming is as close to an established fact as you get in science."

We also thought it was enlightening when Cook reminded us that "Scientists are the ultimate independent thinkers". As in, they're pretty much the opposite of the Inquisitors to whom Tony Abbot alluded.

You should also know that climate scientists do not work for obscenely large grants, because there's no cash in climate science.

Nor are they in it for career advancement, because you definitely don't get ahead in science by discovering the same stuff as other people.

One more thing. A more recent paper examined the other 3 percent of scientific papers.

Guess what? They all had serious flaws.

More On This Topic