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Climate Hustle

Bart Verheggen Interview: Scientists’ Views About Attribution Of Global Warming

Posted on 7 October 2014 by CollinMaessen

This is a re-post from Real Sceptic

Very few Americans are aware of the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming (Maibach 2013). There’s a huge gap between the agreement the public thinks there is between scientists and the actual agreement among scientists. It’s because of this lack of awareness that several studies investigated what the agreement is among scientists.

When researchers surveyed climate scientists on the cause of global warming 97% of the actively publishing climatologists said that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures” (Doran 2009) Researchers found the same patterns when they analysed public statements of climate experts (Anderegg 2010). When researchers looked into how the scientific consensus on global warming evolved from 1996 to 2009 they found a steady increase in the agreement among scientists (Bray 2010). The latest survey on the scientific literature found that 97% “endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming” (Cook 2013).

The consensus gap

The latest paper investigating the scientific consensus is ‘Scientists’ Views about Attribution of Global Warming‘ by Bart Verheggen. He and his colleagues surveyed over 1,800 climate scientists and their results confirm the consensus that global warming is predominantly caused by human greenhouse gases. He also found that this consensus gets stronger the more expertise scientists have, confirming the results found by studies like Doran 2009 and Anderegg 2010.

One of the interesting results from this paper is that the attribution statement in the IPCC 2007 report may lead to an underestimate of the greenhouse gas contribution to global warming. This is because the net warming it reports includes the cooling effects of aerosols which partly masks the warming caused by greenhouse gases.

This survey also found that the media exposure of contrarian positions is higher in the media, contributing to the consensus gap. This confirms the results from Boykoff 2013 which also found that in the media contrarian positions are over represented. Despite the overwhelming evidence in the scientific literature showing that we’re causing global warming.

I interviewed Verheggen on these results, their meaning, and how this compares to other consensus papers. During the interview we talked about the findings I already mentioned here, and some other very interesting details Verheggen found. I hope you’ll enjoy the video of this interview.

As usual you can find the source listing and used media resources in the video transcript section. Transcript for the video hasn’t been added yet, but will be as soon as possible.

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. Somewhat related: Psychologists Are Learning How to Convince Conservatives to Take Climate Change Seriously

    I had heard that pointing out the scientific consensus was one of the more successful approaches, but this article suggests other kinds of reframing.

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  2. Any sensible person who really believes that 55% (never mind the actual 97%) of experts are telling us that we must cut carbon emissions to avoid the risk of catastrophe would surely want to play safe. 'Prepare for the worst while you hope for the best' and that sort of old fashioned wisdom. The problem seems to be that people are not behaving sensibly over this arguably most urgent of all issues. Too big to comprehend, perhaps.

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  3. Sadly, the balance of 97% agreement by climate scientists re Anthropogenic Global Warming and Climate Change versus the only 55% of agreement by the public relects the reality of getting a message across using modern media. Having publicists, media advisors and proper marketing is just as important as having climate scientists agreeing. While Internet sites like Skeptical Science and Real Science deliver a pro-AGW/CC perspective, and the related Internet forums do allow those who understand the issue to discuss it and provide information to interested lay people, the vast majority of people still get their information from traditional mainsteam media outlets like newspapers, TV and radio. Because of the recent decline in investigative journalism due to the economic realities of running traditional media outlets today, there has been an increase in spin by the competing political entities who provide copy to fewer and fewer journalists. It is this spin that is being reported mostly, not proper investigative journalism. This means that the reporting of this issue has been biased by the the effectiveness of the media and marketing advisors on the each side of the debate, a debate that the contrarian side is winning due to the powerful vested interest backing it and because they can afford the media and marketing advisors to properly promote it. This may be one of the reasons for the consensus imbalance between the science and the public.

    A study of traditional media with the respective market shares of each outlet and how it reflects the scientific consensus should be quite informative. Quite simply, Climate Change is not currently winning the marketing war. It's a sad reality that having a 97% consensus among Climate Scientists is not simply enough to turn around public opinion. To do that will require simplifying the CC message with the science presented to the public in terms that can be more easily understood; using professional media advisors providing appropriate copy to journalists; and marketing advisors providing a proper marketing strategy of to convey the science. Scientific discussions between climate scientists and just expecting journalists to properly convey the balance of those discussions will not translate the balance of the scientific consensus into a similar media consensus and hence a similar public consensus.

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  4. Very nice article. But, just like the preceding three words, "Despite the overwhelming evidence in the scientific literature showing that we’re causing global warming" is not a sentence. I hope that the author will correct this problem in both his original post and in the Skeptical Science re-post. Correction should be simple--replace the preceding period (stop) with a comma, and change "Despite" to "despite".

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