How to lie with statistics

Trent Ernst, Editor

Every once in a while, I’ll see something on Facebook that gets under my skin.

Recently, it was a story (dating back to 1998, and yes, it got under my skin the last ten time it made the rounds, too) about how “Over 30,000 scientists say ‘Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming’ is a complete hoax and science lie.”


It’s sad when science becomes a victim of politics. In this case, a new article is rallying the troops, claiming that “Al Gore may emerge from the shadows to declare victory in the ‘global warming’ debate if Hillary Clinton moves into the White House. Yes, if that happens and the new climate regulations become the law of the land, they will be next to impossible to overturn for four to eight years.”

Throughout history, politicians have been taking and spinning the facts to try and support their cause.

Let’s be honest. All sides do it. It’s easy to lie with statistics.

Back when I was in college, we used the book How to Lie with Statistics as the main textbook for one of our classes in which the professor showed us how people lie with statistics, while at the same time, lying to the class with statistics.

So, let’s examine this claim: 30,000 scientists say man-made global warming is a complete hoax and science lie.

Is that true? Well, maybe. If you go to you will see all the names of the 31,487 people who have signed the petition.

However, it is not certain that all the names are valid. In the past, the list has included such names as Charles Darwin, The Spice Girls, and characters from Star Wars. While these names have since been excised from the list, the scientific rigor that has been applied to verifying the names is … lacking.

But lets say that all the names are valid. 30,000 scientists saying that global warming is false is a pretty big number, right? Well, here’s where we start lying with statistics. Because the only qualification for being considered a scientist is to hold a Bachelor of Science Degree.

At last count, about 10.5 million people in the US having a Bachelors degree in science. 31,000 people out of 10.5 million constitutes about 0.3 percent of the scientific population in the states. So, let’s reword that headline:

“Less than half of one percent of Scientists Declare Climate Change a Hoax.”

Doesn’t sound quite as impressive. Especially since, of those 31,487 people who signed it, only about 900 have degrees in anything related to Climate Science.

For instance, just grabbing names at random from the list, we find one Rusty Adcock. Let’s see. Is he really a scientist? Well, we find him listed at

Rusty Adcock is a Family Doctor out of South Pittsburgh, TN. And, while I appreciate the fact that he does have a degree in Science, perhaps old Rusty might not be the go-to person for the latest on Climate Change, just like I may not call Environment Canada to find out what this strange rash is on my nether regions.

Here’s the problem. By making it seem that we have no responsibility for contributing to global warming, these people are making it seem like we can abdicate any responsibility, meaning we delay action for another day. I’m not going to say either side is right or wrong (though, science may hold the answer, if you’re willing to listen). But what if the ones saying climate change is real are right? That the very fate of the world hangs in balance based on what we do? Isn’t it worth at least considering that our actions do indeed have consequences? Maybe we should start listening to the scientists and not the politicians.