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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Climate Hustle

The 97% consensus on global warming

What the science says...

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97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming.

Climate Myth...

There is no consensus
The Petition Project features over 31,000 scientists signing the petition stating "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide will, in the forseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere ...". (Petition Project)

Science achieves a consensus when scientists stop arguing.  When a question is first asked – like ‘what would happen if we put a load more CO2 in the atmosphere?’ – there may be many hypotheses about cause and effect. Over a period of time, each idea is tested and retested – the processes of the scientific method – because all scientists know that reputation and kudos go to those who find the right answer (and everyone else becomes an irrelevant footnote in the history of science).  Nearly all hypotheses will fall by the wayside during this testing period, because only one is going to answer the question properly, without leaving all kinds of odd dangling bits that don’t quite add up. Bad theories are usually rather untidy.

But the testing period must come to an end. Gradually, the focus of investigation narrows down to those avenues that continue to make sense, that still add up, and quite often a good theory will reveal additional answers, or make powerful predictions, that add substance to the theory.

So a consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer. Scientists change their minds on the basis of the evidence, and a consensus emerges over time. Not only do scientists stop arguing, they also start relying on each other's work. All science depends on that which precedes it, and when one scientist builds on the work of another, he acknowledges the work of others through citations. The work that forms the foundation of climate change science is cited with great frequency by many other scientists, demonstrating that the theory is widely accepted - and relied upon.

In the scientific field of climate studies – which is informed by many different disciplines – the consensus is demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change – and that’s nearly all of them.

Authors of seven climate consensus studies — including Naomi OreskesPeter DoranWilliam AndereggBart VerheggenEd MaibachJ. Stuart Carlton, and John Cook — co-authored a paper that should settle this question once and for all. The two key conclusions from the paper are:

1) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists.

2) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.

consensus studies

Expert consensus results on the question of human-caused global warming among the previous studies published by the co-authors of Cook et al. (2016). Illustration: John Cook.  Available on the SkS Graphics page

consensus vs expertise

Scientific consensus on human-caused global warming as compared to the expertise of the surveyed sample. There’s a strong correlation between consensus and climate science expertise. Illustration: John Cook. Available on the SkS Graphics page

Expert consensus is a powerful thing. People know we don’t have the time or capacity to learn about everything, and so we frequently defer to the conclusions of experts. It’s why we visit doctors when we’re ill. The same is true of climate change: most people defer to the expert consensus of climate scientists. Crucially, as we note in our paper:

Public perception of the scientific consensus has been found to be a gateway belief, affecting other climate beliefs and attitudes including policy support.

That’s why those who oppose taking action to curb climate change have engaged in a misinformation campaign to deny the existence of the expert consensus. They’ve been largely successful, as the public badly underestimate the expert consensus, in what we call the “consensus gap.” Only 16% of Americans realize that the consensus is above 90%.

Lead author John Cook explaining the team’s 2016 consensus paper.


Update July 2015:

Here is the relevant lecture-video from Denial101x - Making Sense of Climate Science Denial

 

Last updated on 8 May 2016 by BaerbelW . View Archives

Printable Version  |  Offline PDF Version  |  Link to this page

Related Arguments

Further reading

Further viewing

The "Climate Denial Crock of the Week" video series examines the list of "32,000 leading skeptical scientists."

Naomi Oreskes gives a thorough presentation of the development of our scientific understanding of anthropogenic global warming:

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Joe Crouch for his efforts in tracking down scientific organizations endorsing the consensus as well as links to their public statements.

Update

On 21 Jan 2012, we revised 'the skeptic argument' with a minor quote formatting correction.

Comments

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Comments 751 to 762 out of 762:

  1. qwertie @749 & 750

    I disagree that we have to follow the framing of those who still deny the consensus and to then basically censor ourselves by no longer mentioning particular studies.

    As for the details from "Consensus on consensus", they are already just a click away and - at a guess - it wouldn't matter at all if that information were also included right within the rebuttal. They'd still ignore and/or twist it to their liking.

  2. After reading way to many pages of this threads, one thing is certain, too many people are simply going to believe what they want to believe.  To deny that there are legitimate arguments on both sides is dishonest simply dishonest.

    Response:

    [DB] You are invited to pick the "legitimate argument" you feel the strongest about, and bring the citational evidence to support it, and post it on the most relevant thread here at SkS.

    [PS] You will do everyone a favour if you check your "legitimate argument" is not:

     - a strawman (ie check what science actually does say in eg IPCC WG1, rather than what someone tells you it says)

     - cherry picking data. The other common denier tactic.

    You might also like to run your argument against this list here. If you still think you have a good argument, then please comment on the appropriate thread. Given USA pull out of Paris, some good news would be welcome.

  3. True, CycleGeek @752, there are people who are so divorced from reality as to believe what they want to believe, in defiance of the actual state of affairs.

    If you yourself are not one of these people, then you will now (having read so many pages) be able to give a brief summary of the "legitimate arguments" against the existence of the scientific consensus.

    Reading this thread, and using the most strenuous skepticism, I have been unable to find any such "legitimate arguments" — so I very much look forward to being enlightened by your reply (assuming you can find any arguments that are not simply delusional and unrealistic as Monckton's ).

  4. A paper by five leading climatologists published in the journal Science and Education found only 41 out of the 11,944 published climate studies examined in Cook’s study explicitly stated mankind has caused most of the warming since 1950 — meaning the actual consensus is 0.3 percent, not 97%. http://yournewswire.com/mit-scientist-global-warming-propaganda/

    Response:

    [DB] In this venue, participants cite credible sources.  In this case, if you wish to cite a published study, then furnish a link to the actual study, and not to some news article that may or may not be misrepresenting the paper.

    Please read this venue's Comments Policy to familiarize yourself with this venue's permitted rules of engagement.  Thanks!

  5. Sorry, Rikoshaprl @754 , but the link you supply mentions the main "leading climatologist" as Richard Lindzen — an ex-climatologist who was so unscientific, that he caused major embarrassment to his colleagues at M.I.T. when he was there.  And the other climatologists your article (at yournewswire) links to, are little better!  Lindzen makes a triple fail, because his own climate predictions are now a full degree Celsius below the present day global surface temperature.   That is a colossal error by Lindzen.  And Lindzen still seems to think there has been hardly any warming, despite all the evidence to the contrary!  Lindzen is severely out of touch with reality.  And his third fail, is that he appears to hold a religious-based belief that Jehovah would prevent a global warming of more than the slightest amount.  Completely unscientific attitude there, as I am sure you must agree.  Among genuine climatologists, Lindzen is a laughing stock.

    Now to the Cook study itself.   Rikoshaprl, it appears you have not read the Cook paper.   If you had read it, then you would see that the second part of the paper consists of questioning the authors of those papers — and here, the authors themselves rate their own papers at around 97% support of the consensus figure found in the first section of the study [i.e. also 97%]

    Sorry, Rikoshaprl, but you haven't a leg to stand on.

    Perhaps you can inform us of how you came to make such a complete mistake of the real situation.   For your own benefit, you should do some reading about what is actually happening in the field of climate science — and you can learn a great deal, right here at Skepticalscience.

    Avoid foolish propaganda sites such as Yournewswire.  They will misinform you and lead you to embarrass yourself, hugely !!

  6. Just because there is consensus doesn't automatically mean that the view is correct. Historically, scientific consensus has not only been proven to be wrong, but spectacularly wrong...time and time again.

    https://theobjectiveobserverblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/there-are-no-climate-change-deniers/

    Response:

    [PS] This sloganeering without a  scrap of support. If you want to dispute, pick a point, back your argument with references/data. If you are taken in by the nonsense in link presented, then I strongly recommend you read here and here

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  7. The point is that scientific consensus can be wrong. Nobody disputes the following:


    • Prior to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, a magical “luminiferous aether” was considered by scientific consensus as the medium for the propagation of light. Einstein was actually still trying to work the aether into the theory of relativity as late as 1924. Evidence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminiferous_aether

    • Prior to the 1970’s, the scientific consensus for macro geologic processes was not plate tectonics. Evidence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plate_tectonics

    • Prior to the 1980’s, the scientific consensus was that there was no such thing as dark energy and dark matter. Scientific consensus was that we could see 100% of the matter and energy in the universe. We now understand that visible matter and energy represent only a small fraction of the matter and energy in the universe. Evidence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy

    • Prior to the 1980’s, scientific consensus would tell you that sauropods lived in lakes and that dinosaurs were cold blooded and extinct. We now understand these things to be entirely false.


    The point is that simply pointing to scientific consensus is not fool-proof. I think this is a valuable input to the discussion.

    Response:

    [PS] You are again indulging in the strawman arguments. Where is the claim that scientific consensus is foolproof?  The claim is:

    1/ There is a scientific consensus on the cause of current warming (and a very strong one at that)

    2/ That the scientific consensus (particularly when strong) is the rational basis for policy making (on any technical topic).

    Feel free to bring evidence against the claim but dont bother disputing non-claims.Take your sophistry elsewhere.

  8. Look, your argument is that anthropogenic causes are proved by scientific consensus. I have presented examples where scientific consensus was not just incorrect by exactly the opposite of what we know today. Although you deleted them. That's the only point. I happen to believe in the anthropotenic causes for cliimate change, but basing that upon scientific consensus is problematic. If you want to talk about logical fallacies, there you go.

    Response:

    [PS] "Look, your argument is that anthropogenic causes are proved by scientific consensus. "

    No, as repeatedly said, that is not the argument and you repeating it does not make it so. Nothing is "proved" in science. What is asserted is that the vast weight of scientific evidence supports the notion of anthropogenic cause, so much so that a scientific consensus has formed on that. It might be wrong, but until someone shows evidence that it does, policy should be guided by that consensus. Show us anywhere in the IPCC report (or peer-reviewed paper) where it is claimed that anthropogenic warming is proved by consensus. That is a nonsense statement. The papers discussed above simply a methods to determine whether a consensus exists.

  9. I agree that scientific consensus is that climate change has anthropogenic causes. I think I was pretty clear about that.

    Response:

    [PS] Great but didnt say you didnt. I am saying that you are making claim about that means that neither the article nor any scientific source actually makes. (ie a strawman).

  10. I am not going to make the argument again but post 712 sums it up splendidly. 

    TLDR: read the paper by Cook et al and you will see what the consensus is really about. Not that much shocking facts. Human activity is creating greenhouse gas and this impacts the global climate. 

    So basically I would advise any skeptic to read and think for themselves. Don't accept what is pre

  11. I can't edit, so I will rephrase that last sentence. 

    Don't just accept what is presented to you, think critical and challenge the assumptions. 

  12. Unfortunately many of the links have aged out in your "Scientific organizations endorsing the consensus" section. You might want to try updating them. Although good luck with the EPA these days...

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