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Trump climate change adviser provides CBC with dubious sources

Image: Flickr/Akuppa John Wigham

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On Wednesday, CBC Radio's Carol Off interviewed Donald Trump's climate change adviser, Robert Walker, former chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and she seems to have got under his skin.

Walker disputes the assertion that the vast majority of climate scientists believe the evidence of human-caused global warming.

Off quoted Walker as having said that only about half of scientists actually agree with climate change.

He responded that he was talking only about climatologists, not all scientists. If you take the climatologist group, alone, without other disciplines, including social sciences, Walker said, you will see that there is significant dissent from the so-called consensus.

However, when asked to provide a source for that assertion, the Trump adviser could not, and made a vague reference to something he had read, somewhere.

After the interview, Walker sent Carol Off's program, As It Happens, an e-mail, in which he cited three sources: an organization called Open Source Systems, Science and Solutions; another called the National Association of Scholars; and something he called the Center for Climate Research.

To start with the last group, Walker said it had showed that of 4,000 research abstracts on global warming only one per cent attributed it exclusively to human causes.

The Center Walker cited may exist. If so, it does not seem to have any online presence.

There is a Centre for Climate Research in Singapore, an institute with a similar name at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and a Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin. All publish research that confirms rather than negates the scientific consensus on global warming. None have done the analysis of abstracts that Walker quotes.

Nor is it possible, through standard search methods, to find any article, by anybody, anywhere, that makes Walker's claim. There are, on the other hand, numerous scientific articles which analyze the research literature on climate change and draw conclusions entirely at odds with the figure Walker quotes.

In 2015, the U.S. interdisciplinary scientific organization, the Center for Skeptical Inquiry, published a paper by geologist James Lawrence Powell which asserted that it is not 97 per cent of scientists who agree on human caused global warming; it is rather 99 per cent.

An Australian study published by the British-based Institute of Physics reached a similar conclusion.

Walker said the National Association of  Scholars has reported that 40 per cent of "scientists with a specialty with regard to climate do not ascribe to human caused global warming."

The National Association is not, in fact, a scientific organization, but, rather, a conservative group dedicated to advancing a libertarian and conservative philosophy in research and higher education.

Even so, one can search their online offerings assiduously and find none that make anything resembling the claim Walker attributes to them.

On its website the National Association says about climate change: "We take no position on whether global warming is real, man-made, or dangerous. The National Association of Scholars is not a body of climate scientists, and we leave these questions to those with the relevant expertise."

They then go on to say: "The studies that claim 97 per cent of climate scientists believe in dangerous anthropogenic global warming have largely been discredited. The 97 per cent figure was achieved by misleading questions and miscategorizing answers."

However, contrary to Walker, they do not complain that the consensus figure would be lower if one included only climatologists. To the contrary, they say quite the opposite, to wit: "The term 'climate scientists' is itself mischievous -- a way of writing out scientists who are experts in related fields, such as physics and geology, who disagree with the consensus model."

As for the entity known as Open Source Systems, Science and Solutions, its published material vigorously supports the scientific consensus on climate change. It does not in any way whatsoever endorse the assertions Walker made in the As It Happens interview and in his subsequent e-mail.

In the section of Open Source's web site dedicated to myths versus facts on global warming it says:

"This news and analysis section addresses substance of arguments such as 'global warming is a hoax,' 'global warming is a fiction,' 'global warming is created to make money for Al Gore.' The main fallacy noted is that most arguments are facts out of context while others are simply false representations. When the facts pertaining to the arguments are viewed in context relevance becomes obvious. The data clearly indicates global warming is happening and is human caused."

One has to assume that in providing CBC with these sources the U.S. politician and senior Trump adviser assumed nobody would check them.

He was wrong. 

Karl Nerenberg is your reporter on the Hill. Please consider supporting his work with a monthly donation. Support Karl on Patreon today for as little as $1 per month!

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Image: Flickr/Akuppa John Wigham

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