Kerry: 'At Least 98, 99% of All Scientists in Our Country’ Believe in Climate Change

Patrick Goodenough | June 18, 2014 | 8:42pm EDT
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Secretary of State John Kerry gives the keynote address at the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

( – At a time when debate is swirling over the assertion that 97 percent of scientists endorse man-made global warming, Secretary of State John Kerry – a frequent citer of the 97 percent figure – in a speech Wednesday nudged the figure up to “at least 98, 99 percent.”

“When it comes to climate change, when it comes to food security, we are literally facing a moment of adversity – perhaps even dire necessity,” Kerry said at a State Department food security award ceremony.

“It’s hard to convince people – hard to convince people of a challenge that isn’t immediately tangible to everybody particularly,” he continued. “But it is clear to at least 98, 99 percent of all the scientists in our country that to confront these challenges, we must invent and we must innovate, and most of all, we need to work together and we need to get to work.”

On several occasions this year Kerry has referred to “97 percent of scientists” backing the notion that climate change is happening, and that human activity is to blame – or what activists refer to as “anthropogenic [that is, human-induced] global warming” (AGW).

In a speech in Mexico last month, he spoke of “97 percent of the scientists of the world warning us about the devastating impact of global climate change if we don’t take action – and take serious action – soon.”

A few days earlier, he told Boston College graduates that “97 percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent.”

And in a speech in Indonesia in February, Kerry said that “97 percent of climate scientists have confirmed that climate change is happening and that human activity is responsible,” adding that “these scientists agree on the causes of these changes and they agree on the potential effects.”

Kerry’s latest comments come amid debate over the accuracy of the 97 percent claim, which is based most often on a survey by a team led by an Australian physicist and climate blogger, John Cook, which reported that 97 percent of some 4,000 peer-reviewed studies that declared a position on AGW “endorsed the consensus position.”

When that survey was published in May 2013, President Obama linked to a wire service report on it on his Twitter account, tweeting, “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.”

(In fact neither the published survey nor the wire service report referred to the “dangerous” claim.)

Last month, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Heartland Institute president and CEO Joseph Bast and climate scientist Roy Spencer, charging that the 97 percent claim was “a fiction,” and challenging the Cook and other studies often cited as sources for the figure.

That in turn brought strong and critical responses from several quarters, including the online magazine Salon, and one of the co-collaborators in the Cook study, writing in The Guardian.

After a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology late last month, committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement that both the latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the White House’s National Climate Assessment documents “appear to be designed to spread fear and alarm and provide cover for previously determined government policies.”

“The president and others often claim that 97 percent of scientists believe that global warming is primarily driven by human activity,” Smith said. “However, the study they cite has been debunked. When asked today whether the science of climate change is settled or if uncertainties remain, witnesses unanimously said that the science is not settled.”

Witnesses at the hearing included Richard Tol, professor of economics at Britain’s University of Sussex, and an IPCC report lead author who asked to have his name removed from its latest summary report because he said he found it “too alarmist.”

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