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Steam billows from cooling towers at the Radcliffe Power Station near Nottingham in central England on May 25, 2005. Business is booming in Europe Steam billows from cooling towers at the Radcliffe Power Station near Nottingham in central England on May 25, 2005. Business is booming in Europe's new market for trading pollution credits but doubts remain about the scheme's long-term ability to punch its weight in the fight against global warming. Picture taken May 25, 2005. To match feature Environment-CO2-Trade REUTERS/Mike Finn-Kelcey - RTR1BLVC  

Where Did ’97 Percent’ Global Warming Consensus Figure Come From?

The University of Queensland in Australia is taking legal action to block the release of data used by one of its scientists to come up with the oft-quoted statistic that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that mankind is causing global warming.

Since coming out with this figure last year, climate scientist John Cook of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute has been under fire for the methodology he used.

“Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on [anthropogenic global warming] is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research,’’ Cook and his fellow authors wrote in their study which was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters last year.

The university has told climate skeptic blogger Brandon Schollenberger that the data on the study he possesses was illegally obtained and they would take legal action against him if he published it.

“UQ has therefore published all data relating to the paper that is of any scientific value to the wider community,” said Queensland’s acting pro-vice-­chancellor Alastair McEwan.

“UQ withheld only data that could identify research participants who took part in the ­research on condition of anonymity,” McEwan added. “Such conditions are not uncommon in academic ­research, and any breach of confidentiality could deter people from participating in valuable research in the future.”

McEwan said that all the data Cook used to come up with his “97 percent” consensus was published on his blog SkepticalScience.com. The school says it wants to protect the privacy of those surveyed in Cook’s research.

“That’s right. The University of Queensland sent me a threatening letter which threatens me further if I show anyone that letter,” Schollenberger wrote on his blog Thursday. “Confusing, no? It gets stranger. Along with its threats, the University of Queensland included demands.”

“According to it, I’m not just prevented from disclosing any of the ‘intellectual property’ (IP) I’ve gained access to,” Schollenberger added. “I’m prevented from even doing anything which involves using the data. That means I can’t discuss the data. I can’t perform analyses on it. I can’t share anything about it with you.”

“Apparently I badgered Cook too much. I tried too hard to get him to do his duty and try to protect his subjects’ privacy. The University of Queensland needs me to stop. If I don’t, they’ll sue me,” he said.

Cook’s paper has been touted by environmentalists and the Obama administration as evidence that virtually all scientists agree that global warming is a man-made threat.

“Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest,” President Obama said last year announcing his climate plan. “They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.”

But Cook’s 97 percent consensus claim was rebutted in subsequent analyses of his study. A paper by five leading climatologists published in the journal Science and Education last year found that Cook’s study misrepresented the views of most consensus scientists.

The definition Cook used to get his consensus was weak, the climatologists said. Only 41 out of the 11,944 published climate studies examined by Cook explicitly stated that mankind caused most of the warming since 1950 — meaning the actual consensus is 0.3 percent.

“It is astonishing that any journal could have published a paper claiming a 97% climate consensus when on the authors’ own analysis the true consensus was well below 1%,” said Dr. David Legates, a geology professor at the University of Delaware and the study’s lead author.

Queensland’s legal fight with Schollenberger comes while UK news outlets are reporting that one of the world’s top scientific journals rejected a study from five climate scientists for political reasons.

The UK Times reported that a reviewer with the journal Environmental Research Letters rejected the study because it was “harmful” to the climate cause because it “opens the door for oversimplified claims of ‘errors’ and worse from the climate skeptics media side.”

“The problem we now have in the climate community is that some scientists are mixing up their scientific role with that of a climate activist,” Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, told the Times.

Bengtsson was one of the study’s authors and recently joined the camp of scientists skeptical of global warming.

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