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The 97%: Watch John Oliver's Hilarious 'Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate'

Joseph Romm's picture
American Progress
  • Member since 2018
  • 1,651 items added with 337,137 views
  • May 14, 2014

Some 97 out of 100 actively publishing climate scientists agree with the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing global warming.


The challenge for the media is how to accurately reflect that consensus. One way NOT to do it is to give equal time to climate science deniers. Unsurprisingly (yet tragically), that is the preferred strategy of most of the MSM. False balance lives at CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, and even PBS.

Only one cable news show has been brave enough to take on false balance with a “statistically representative climate change debate.” Unfortunately, it’s a fake news show, John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” on HBO. Here is the must-see segment:

Sadly, this is no laughing matter. False balance and media miscoverage have left the public with a serious misperception about the degree of scientific agreement on climate change:

And as Skeptical Science has noted, this “consensus gap” matters: “Research has shown that people who are unaware of the expert consensus are less likely to accept the science and less likely to support taking action to address the problem, so media false balance can be linked directly to our inability to solve the climate problem.”


All scientists and media outlets should heed the “advice to climate scientists on how to avoid being swift-boated,” from History professor Juan Cole:

“Any broadcast that pits a climate change skeptic against a serious climate scientist is automatically a win for the skeptic, since a false position is being given equal time and legitimacy.”

The post The 97%: Watch John Oliver’s Hilarious ‘Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Joseph Romm's picture
Thank Joseph for the Post!
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Robin Carey's picture
Robin Carey on May 14, 2014

Oliver’s segment was brilliant, and more importantly, became a meme.  Bill Nye should just stop showing up for “debates” unless he can bring 96 other people with him.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 15, 2014

Cliff, the objections of climate skeptics (which, in 2014, ring about as hollow as those of gravity skeptics) only become more strident and irrational with time.

Do you really want to hinge your argument on semantic differences between the words “significant” and “major”, or imply that global mean temperatures have actually been cooling since 1850? Are you suggesting that all scientists should have equal say in the climate debate, i.e. should 1 climatology vote be equal to 1 veterinary vote? Why should we consider the opinions of climatologists who don’t submit their work for critical review? What is the “proper path” for mitigation of something which you don’t believe is happening in the first place?

Really – this is absurd.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 15, 2014

Robin, I’m tempted to agree with you if it were not for the possibility of Nye showing up in his bow tie being the only chance to get a word in edgewise.

Jessica Kennedy's picture
Jessica Kennedy on May 15, 2014

I can only agree passionately with Oliver’s brilliant one-liner here.

Jessica Kennedy's picture
Jessica Kennedy on May 16, 2014

So, by ignoring “facts” I can only assume you mean ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. 
Peer reviewed articles are what matter. Credible researchers submit their work for review.  “Scientists” who know their research has severe flaws will not, for obvious reasons.  The 97% statistic comes primarily from work of scientists (real ones) that scanned peer reviewed research for articles rejecting climate change.  Now, let me be extremely clear on this (and it is not my personal opinion, but it is how the review process works).  Peer review is not a liberal agenda.  It is a legitimate part of the scientific process, and a necessary step to ensure that no seriously flawed or biased papers are published in well-respected journals.  
Jim Powell, the scientist behind much of this research sums up the process saying “The articles have a total of 33,690 individual authors. The top ten countries represented, in order, are USA, England, China, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, France, Spain, and Netherlands.”  (i.e. not just US journals – he’s also updated his results as recently as this year).  You can find all the methodology, results, and information here


Also worth noting is that Jim Powell, was appointed to the National Science Board under both Reagan and Bush.    

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