When I was a student at UNO in the 1980s, I studied a book by Darrell Huff titled “How to Lie with Statistics.” I not only consider it one of the most important books ever written, I think it ought to be required reading for every member of American society. Its original intent is to teach people how to detect relevance when someone begins to throw numbers around as a show of brilliance.

Professor Loren Scott’s letter in the editorial section of a recent Advocate is a perfect example of how statistics can be manipulated to produce a false conclusion. To make my point, I must quote his letter to some extent.

Referring to a study of almost 12,000 scientific papers dealing with global warming and climate change, Professor Scott writes: “64 percent of these studies expressed no opinion whatsoever on global warming. Of the 36 percent of the abstracts that did express an opinion, 97.1 percent endorsed the idea that it was human-caused. That means that less than 36 percent of scientists believe that it was human-caused, not 97 percent.”

Read this statement carefully and remember that personal opinions have no place in scientific papers. What his own statement says is that, of the scientific papers that actually studied whether or not global warming is caused by humans, 97.1 percent reached the conclusion that it is. The other 64 percent of papers “expressed no opinion whatsoever.” This just means that these papers were addressing different elements of global warming and had no reason to refer to its potential causes. Note that Professor Scott does not deny the facts of global warming, just its causes and his conclusion is demonstrably false. When scientific studies actually address the causes of global warming, 97.1 percent reach the conclusion that it is caused by humans.

My opinion is that, of the remaining 2.9 percent of climate scientists, most are in the pockets of the oil and gas industry and are manipulating the data, a few are just trying to make a name for themselves by disagreeing with the consensus, and a very small percentage are actually finding data that don’t confirm human causes.

Professor Scott is just another shill for the petrochemical industry.

John Kennedy

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