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Public talk explaining our consensus paper & answering critics

Posted on 30 September 2013 by John Cook

I recently presented a public talk at the new Global Change Institute living building on the topic of scientific consensus. Specifically, the talk was titled Closing the consensus gap a key to increasing support for climate action. I go into why there is a scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, explain the research in our consensus paper published in Environmental Research Letters and answer 5 criticisms of our paper. Here's the full video which you can also view at the GCI website (with details of the powerpoint slides to follow):

The talk featured a number of new powerpoint slides which anyone is welcome to reuse - here is the full Powerpoint file (5.5Mb). For example, I begin the talk by talking about the greenhouse effect, adapting the excellent graphics created by SJI Associates for

Discussion of the mechanism of the greenhouse effect led naturally into discussion of the many independent human fingerprints being observed in our climate system:

Normally when I talk about the "Consensus Gap", the discrepancy between the 97% consensus and the public perception of consensus, I use a histogram of the public response to the question "how many climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming?" Now I have a lot of sentimental attachment to my histogram. But for some reason, everyone I show the graph to responds with a universal "meh". There's just not a lot of histogram love in the room. So I've capitulated to popular opinion (grumbling every step of the way) and gone with ordinary piecharts which in my opinion loses a lot of valuable information:

Why is there such a significant consensus gap? I go on to talk about the two decade campaign to manufacture doubt about scientific consensus, using a timeline created in collaboration with SkS artist JG:

Lastly, and this is probably what will interest people most, I address some of the attacks directed towards our consensus paper. Interestingly, the attacks are consistent with the five characteristics of consensus denial:

  • Fake debate
  • Logical Fallacies
  • Impossible Expectations
  • Cherry Picking
  • Conspiracy Theories

I'll leave you to watch the talk and view the responses but I will tease you with what is my favourite conspiracy theory regarding our consensus paper to date:

In the subsequent slide, I examine some of the impressive achievements of the journal Environmental Research Letters, which demonstrates the implausibility of this kind of conspiratorial thinking.

Note: all my slides are available as Powerpoint slides (5.5Mb) and everyone is welcome to republish our graphics.

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Can you please give the provenance of the Monckton quote?

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  2. The Monckton quote comes from - around the 2:30 minute mark.

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