In last week’s Republican presidential debate sponsored by MSNBC and Politico, candidate John Huntsman, the only serious Al Gorite in the Republican presidential field, claimed that there is a 98% percent consensus among climate scientists on the issue of global warming. So the question arises, what was he referring to. The Heartland Institute’s James Taylor, writing for dissects the questions asked in the survey being referred to and what the answers actually mean. What he shows is that the survey was pretty trivial. Most importantly Taylor, a well-known climate skeptic, would, himself, have fallen into the 98% had he been part of the survey. Here’s Taylor’s explanation:

To illustrate, I will answer the survey:

Q1. “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”

James Taylor Answer: Risen

Q2. “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”

James Taylor Answer: Yes

Regarding the first question, in the early 1800s the world was in the grips of the Little Ice Age, which brought about the planet’s coldest temperatures since the last ice age epoch ended roughly 10,000 years ago. The answer to Question 1 is not only “risen,” but more appropriately (and sarcastically) “Duh!” (And it’s a good thing the answer is “risen.” Only the most zealous and delusional of global warming activists would argue the Little Ice Age brought about beneficial climate conditions.)

Regarding the second question, is human activity a significant contributing factor? Notice how the question did not say “sole factor,” “majority factor,” or even “primary contributing factor.” Rather, the term is merely “significant contributing factor.” More precisely, if human activity is not a “significant” contributing factor then it must be an “insignificant” contributing factor. What is the threshold between “significant” and “insignificant”? Five percent? Ten Percent? The threshold of “insignificance” is certainly no higher than that.

So, are humans responsible for at least 10 percent or so of recent global warming? In other words, are humans responsible for roughly – and merely – 0.06 degrees Celsius of warming during the past century? Most global warming “skeptics” certainly believe that!

My guess is that Huntsman wasn’t purposely being misleading. He’s just clueless–well, maybe.  Ah, the age old evil versus stupid dilemma.