Most Science Teachers Are Smarter Than Most Climate Journalists

There has been a flurry of stories in recent days about a study that showed that many science teachers in U.S. schools are not doctrinaire enough in their communications to students on the subject. Indeed, many stories point with alarm to the factoid that science teachers don’t know there is a 97% consensus on the stuff.

This U.S. News and World Report article links to the source of their ‘97% consensus.’ As you might have guessed, it’s Cook’s junk science report on their slipshod analysis of abstracts (one of their ‘citizen scientist’ analysts managed to get through 672 abstracts in 72 hours, a hallmark of thoroughness to which we all can aspire).

The story says, “In a new study published in Science magazine last week, Eric Plutzer and colleagues report a finding that should alarm the nation: Only 30 percent of middle-school and 45 percent of high-school scienceteachers in the U.S. are aware of the fact that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that global warming is caused mostly by human activities.

“Here’s the kicker: The authors explain that although many science teachers themselves believe that climate change is happening, because most are not aware of the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change many opt to teach “both sides” of the so-called climate debate, mistakenly giving students the impression that the basic facts are still contested, rather than conveying the fact that there is a deep and well-established consensus among climate scientists. A great deal of our own research, as well as that of many other researchers, has identified the importance of communicating the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.”

That’s not the kicker–that’s an accurate portrayal of the debate as it stands today. The ‘97% consensus’ figure is bogus. Surveys of climate scientists show 66% of climate scientists believe that half or more of recent warming is caused by humans. That’s a healthy majority. It’s enough to justify action and to acknowledge in the classroom. But a 34% minority that includes Nobel Laureates in physics and other luminaries with very respectable pedigrees means that the minority report deserves attention too.

The way climate change should be communicated is this:

100% of scientists agree that climate changes. Almost all (99%) agree that our planet has warmed 1C since 1880, for example.

Almost all (97% or even more) agree that humans can affect the climate and that our effects have contributed to the warming we have seen since 1945.

Two-thirds (66%) believe our contribution has been significant–half or more of the current warming.

There is no consensus on some of the most important issues involved in assessing human-caused climate change, including atmospheric sensitivity, the most important factor.

There is little agreement on what the impacts of the warming will be, how much warming we will experience due to our actions or what actions we should take to change the course of the climate trajectory.

Climate activists aren’t angry because science teachers are getting it wrong. They’re angry because the teachers are getting it right.


14 responses to “Most Science Teachers Are Smarter Than Most Climate Journalists

  1. You know what’s worrying me? Journals like Science publish garbage built upon garbage. 97 % of these climate related papers are based on the flawed RCP8.5 pathway. And yet both Nature and Science keep piling on the same flawed stories.

  2. Pingback: Most American Science Teachers Are Smarter Than Most Climate Activists | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

  3. What I don’t get is how can Universities and other Greenhouse effect supporters teach something as absurd as what is presented here :

    I realise it is only a model but if you read the text the textbook quoted and used for the course says the same thing which is that in this model which they teach as reality the atmospheric back radiation has EQUAL heating power as the Sun’s radiation.

    Reality says that is simply absurd – the atmospheric back radiation cannot generate electricity, boil water or cook food or any of the other myriads of powerful effects the solar radiation generates.

    And yet this IS what they teach in “science” courses and it is what any student MUST accept if they wish to pass and not simply waste their tuition fees.

    How can they have missed this obvious absurd claim ??

    • Rosco,

      It is your claim that is absurd. Anyone who is unwilling to accept things that seem absurd at first glance can not be a scientist (at least, not a competent one).

      Averaged over the Earth’s surface, the shortwave radiation from the sun amounts to 165 +/- 6 W/m^2. The “back radiation” from the atmosphere is 346 +/- 9 W/m^2. More than twice as large. Those are facts. Whether or not they seem absurd to you is irrelevant.

      “the atmospheric back radiation cannot generate electricity, boil water or cook food or any of the other myriads of powerful effects the solar radiation generates.”
      That is so. It is due a little thing called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. That is also why you can not use the enormous amount of thermal energy in the oceans to generate electricity, etc.

      • He’s right that the “facts” don’t make sense at first glance but that’s simply because they’re presented in a misleading manner. What is the point of such a comparison “averaged over the earths surface” when the sun doesn’t shine on the entire earths surface?

      • The averages per unit are directly proportional to the sum totaled over the entire surface. The point is that the averages are much easier to work with.

      • The average is physically meaningless so how can you work with it? The totals at least give a meaningful comparison.

      • “The average is physically meaningless so how can you work with it? ”

        Trivially simple, to those of us who are numerate. You only need to know what directly proportional means. For example, if the averages are done in in the same way, then the ratio of the averages is identical to the ratio of the totals. etc.

      • Mike M: “Trivially simple, to those of us who are numerate”

        That excludes you then doesn’t it?

      • Um what? How can the ratio possibly be the same? The suns energy is not uniformly distributed in space or time whilst “back radiation” occurs everywhere at all times.

  4. The most sensible conclusions I have seen on this topic. Yes there is consensus, but not on the whole set of important questions.

    • But the true believers don’t let anything get in the way of their passion. Facts, science, truth, integrity are all demonstrated to be road bumps for Climate Imperialism.

  5. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #216 | Watts Up With That?

  6. Pingback: Veel leraren op Amerikaanse scholen negeren klimaat'consensus' -

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