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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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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.

 

Last updated on 8 May 2016 by BaerbelW. View Archives

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Further reading

Richard Black at the BBC investigates whether there is a bias against skepticism in the scientific community.

More on what we're talking about when we say "scientific consensus,"  in an essay founded on Denial101x and scientific literature: Scientific Consensus isn’t a “Part” of the Scientific Method: it’s a Consequence of it. (or via archive.org)

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:

Here is a video summary of the various studies quantifying the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, as well as the misinformation campaigns casting doubt on the consensus.

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 301 to 325 out of 906:

  1. Neo: "Would you please list just one study that is accepted by the consensus that contradicts AGW." Sure. Angstrom 1900. Of course, it has since been proven wrong... but it was accepted at the time. You won't find any recent 'accepted studies' which contradict AGW because AGW is an observed reality. It would be like having studies showing that water always runs uphill. Even 'skeptic' scientists like Richard Muller and Roy Spencer acknowledge that AGW is happening... they just question how much the total impact will be and/or the best way to handle it. That you think AGW is somehow in question, despite the fact that even 'skeptic' scientists will no longer make that claim, shows just how little you really know about the subject.
  2. Neo, I should clarify that I am interpreting "accepted" as "accepted as a reasonably scientifically sound study". Not a study that is "accepted as a theory that offers an alternative explanation to the warming". Mods, sorry for the double post.
  3. #287: My point was that the church had the consensus and they vigorously defended it to the detriment of science. Further, perhaps my analogy was a little too subtle, but to some, AGW has become its own religion. It has to be taken on faith. That's the problem with your analogy, Neo: "but to some." Upon what basis do you establish the value of a statement? For scientists, it's the science. For anyone who enjoys real, direct power, it may be whatever helps maintain and enhance that power. You, apparently, do not argue from science but rather from the representation of science in popular media. In other words, you rely on others for your understanding. If this is not true, bring on the attacks against the science. They are welcome. If it is true, it seems hypocritical to come to a place like this and use the ideas of others to blindly bludgeon at what those others think is false. At the very least, you end up being a sort of puppet--a being completely in the control of someone absent. I'd rather discuss the situation with the person pulling the strings. As others have suggested, take your arguments to the appropriate threads and engage in open-minded discussion. Who won't respect that kind of move? If you're not willing--willing--to learn, then expect to be ignored or ridiculed.
  4. Neo @297 said Further, perhaps my analogy was a little too subtle, but to some, AGW has become its own religion. It has to be taken on faith. If AGW has become a religion to some then it is taken on faith (by them), but that doesn't imply that it has to be, nor that it is by other people who accept AGW on more rational arguments. Everyone takes some aspect of the world "on trust" from others, the amount of human knowledge is too vast for any other way of living. Most people find quantum mechanics strange or counter-intuitive but all accept it on "faith" when they have an MRI scan. I wonder why you do not feel that quantum mechanics has also "become its own religion" - after all it is 30 years younger than Climate Change, and some scientists did not like it: Einstein: Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the "old one." I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice. If you dislike the idea of taking AGW "on trust" but wish to delve deeper, then I would echo the others who have responded; this website is a great resource for those with an open mind and genuine skepticism to evaluate the science behind AGW
  5. A general response to Neo Anderson @ 297, if you're still reading this thread: I'll forgo adding to what the others have ably dealt with and focus on this: "Further, perhaps my analogy was a little too subtle, but to some, AGW has become its own religion. It has to be taken on faith." Science is the focus on what is seen, measurable and testable. Climate Science, using the Scientific Method, looks at weather conditions averaged over a period of time. Faith, on the other hand, looks beyond the seen to the unseen, past the measurable to the immeasurable and puts the untestable to the test. So, given that climate change is an accepted fact, where does that leave those who would have us debate even the existence of gravity? For it is those in Denial that are most in demonstration of faith when it comes to matters of climate science, climate change and its human attribution. For they deny what is seen, measured and tested. Subtle, I am not. But undeniably faithful, The Yooper
  6. 308 Daniel, 297 Neo... "AGW has become its own religion. It has to be taken on faith." I do think this is a fascinating accusation and one people often use - and not just for AGW. My partner is an atheistic (normally people say non-confessional) theologian. To be clear, theology in the modern academic world is the study of religion, not the construct of dogma. I've had a chance to delve into the subject and discuss with other theologians as well; and never do they define a religion as being anything to do with taking anything of faith. Further, I have a reasonable background in philosophy and the history and philosophy of science - and it's pretty clear that there is no sharp boundary between the epistemology of science, religion or just about any realm of human knowledge. They are all social constructs of knowledge, use evidence and reason to varying degrees and in varying ways, individuals have to take some knowledge on trust or authority, other knowledge through traditional experience, other through sophisticated experimentation etc. etc. Clearly and obviously the methodologies of science can differ to those of religion, or history, or the construct of a shopping list, or deciding who to marry. No one, these days, can draw clear distinctions between realms of knowledge based on epistemology and methodology alone. Various scholars do have their favorite "essential" attribute for science/religion, but there is no consensus - theology being, in it's own way a science. I shan't go into those, suffice to say that - in the professional world - it's a brave person who points the finger and says "that is/isn't a religion" over and above those which are commonly designated as such. ... A brave person or, indeed, an foolish one.
  7. Bruce Frykman @310, having studied both theology and science, I can confidently tell you that your theology is not better than your science - which is deplorable. In neither field does simple declaration make something true. In theology, the source of truth is a 'revelation' from a divine source, which is closely studies to determine which theological view most closely conforms to it. If a theological theory does not conform to the revelation, it is thereby refuted. In science, the only 'revelation' is observation. Scientists have the advantage over theologians in that they can multiply observation by experiment; thus quickly determining which of even subtly different theories are true. Modern scientists have a further advantage of a centuries old tradition in this practice, and a very competitive framework in which reputations are made by showing somebody else has made a mistake. In that environment, the natural conclusion when a theory commands a consensus is that the theory cannot be shown to be a mistake, and that no rival theory can claim the same virtue. We all, including you, acknowledge this in our everyday lives. We believe the Earth orbits the sun even though most of us could not tell us why that is true. We believe Newton's laws of motion even though our everyday appearance appears to contradict that, because there is a scientific consensus behind the theories. We believe that man walked on the moon. Well most of us do. Some of us would rather develop conspiracy theories than either accept the scientific consensus or seriously examine the claims of the scientists. In most areas, we call the people who won't accept the science kooks, and ignore them. In climate science we have their opinions thrust daily in our face by an industry funded PR campaign. Of course, we accept the consensus view of science because we know (and I have checked) that it is based on observation, not simple declaration. In that it contrasts sharply with the views of the kooks deniers who base their objections on simple assertion. As to how the deniers are to be dealt with? My hope is that we will persuade the world of the truth as soon as possible. In that case, the deniers will simply be dealt with by derision.
  8. Wouldn't it be more honest to say that 97% of all people who make a career out of the idea that man's behavior must conform to that required by the same politicians who fund their careers. What are the career prospects for deniers within the EPA? Are their any job openings for research leading to the concept that were are spending to much treasure studying climate?
    Response: [muoncounter] Please lose the ideological bias if you want to be taken seriously. Unless you can substantiate the statement in your first paragraph, it must be considered purely an opinion; it is also a borderline accusation (which violates the Comment Policy).
  9. 311 Frykman - Do you have any evidence for that or is it just speculation or just a hollow - and rather over done, by now - polemic? In my limited experience of folks working in relevant disciplines is that they are interested in things like climate, ice caps, satellites, etc. And apply their academic interests to what ever is interesting. it's not a great career choice - little money, few academic positions etc. same as most sciences. But if you have evidence to back up your thoughts, lets have them... ... that or a retraction; if you're man enough.
  10. RE: "lose the ideological bias" I apologize, please strike the word "honest" from 311 and substitute the word "accurate"
    Response: [muoncounter] No difference. A fact-free argument is usually the hallmark of a troll. Please peddle that soap elsewhere; no one's buying it here.
  11. Bruce Frykman - That word substitution does not change the core of your post: that scientists are conforming to political opinion/pressure rather than doing honest science. I consider it (although I'm not a moderator) well outside the limits of the Comments Policy. Most of the political pressure in the US over the last decade or so has been to deny anthropogenic global warming, not to promote it. And yet the science has continued, and the evidence is even more solid now than a decade ago. Unless you have evidence of such political kow-towing, you are making wholly unsupported accusations. It's obnoxious, outside the comments policy of this site - and utterly unconvincing.
  12. Bruce Frykman, if you have anything at all to back-up your accusations, why don't you show it. Any links to evidence or facts at all ? Or do you only have your own personal and ideological prejudices and bias ? If you have no evidence, I'm sure you'll be man enough to come back and admit it...
  13. RE: Les - 312 "Do you have any evidence for that [politicization or careerism as a driver of climate science] or is it just speculation or just a hollow - and rather over done, by now - polemic? This is a target rich environment; I have proposed that the political authorities who fund climate science do not countenance appeals for funds to examine the proposition that human freedom is deleterious of the earth's climate. My primary support of this is the near certain fact that any such funding is either minuscule or non-existent. I look forward to your refutation of my proposition. If you would like just one tangible example of political control of climate science, I would refer you to Dr Chis Landsea's resignation from the IPCC after politically appointed authorities put his name to the proposition that man's activities modulated both the frequency and severity of Atlantic hurricanes. Dr Landsea found no evidence to support such a claim, so his name was in fact fraudulently attributed to a proposition he would never have supported. This was not simply a mistake which would have been forgivable; when Dr Landsea asked the IPCC to redact the error they would not. We thus at least have some evidence that at one time at least some members of the IPCC were both honest and trustworthy to the extent they would not tolerate fraud committed in their name. I believe Dr Landsea is now classified by IPCC supporters as "a denier" Space and time prohibits me from listing the hundreds of similar assaults on integrity by the political process supporting AGW science.
  14. Bruce Frykman - "Space and time prohibits me from listing the hundreds of similar assaults on integrity by the political process supporting AGW science." Space and time? Or lack of actual content? Landsea didn't provide evidence regarding his claims as far as I can tell; if you have any, please provide it. As to your other assertions - no evidence presented means just that, nothing to take seriously. Assertions without evidence can and will be dismissed without evidence.
    Response: [DB] Fixed text.
  15. RE: KR - 314 RE: "That word substitution does not change the core of your post: that scientists are conforming to political opinion/pressure rather than doing honest science." ( -Innuendo into character snipped- ) ( -Innuendo into character snipped- ) I do hope that you will take this opportunity to disabuse me of my impressions in this regard. ( -Ideological/political statements snipped- ) RE: "I consider it (although I'm not a moderator) well outside the limits of the Comments Policy." ( -Moderation complaints and ideological statements snipped- ) Tom Curtis - 310 "I can confidently tell you that your [my] theology is not better than your [my] science - which is deplorable." ( -Moderation complaints and ideological statements snipped- ) RE: KR at 14:37 PM on 13 April, 2011 "Space and time? Or lack of actual content?" The former, space and time. RE: "Landsea didn't provide evidence regarding his claims as far as I can tell;" Do you have evidence that Dr Landsea didn't have evidence? Silly argumentation isn't it. Please read Dr Landsea's letter of resignation and tell me why Dr Landsea needs to provide you more proof of what he said is what he said. http://sppiblog.org/news/dr-chris-landsea-leaves-the-ipcc#more-743 Oh, finally is Dr Landsea now a "kook" or a "denier?" http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/landsea_bio.html
    Response: [DB] Adherence to the Comments Policy is NOT optional. Further perambulations, both off-topic and ideological, will cause comments to be summarily deleted.
  16. Bruce. Bizarre I am sorry. In science you only get advancement and recognition by doing something different. If you found replacement for current theory of climate that got human's off the hook, then a noble prize awaits you. You also seem to have the mistaken idea that funding is for "pro" and not "anti". In fact funding is for finding out what we dont know and the funders of science (unlike SPPI, Koch, Cato etc) are indifferent to what the outcome of the research is. Your assumptions sir are flawed.
  17. Bruce, When you are sick, I presume you go to a doctor. Why not simply consult a bright engineer friend who reads about medicine as a hobby? After all, doctors are paid to heal illness; there are clear monetary pressures at play. They also possess the same "human weaknesses that the rest of us do." Why then should anyone bother listening to doctors at all? This is not a question of "are scientists perfect", it is a choice between opposing viewpoints. You can choose to listen to a) political pundits / bloggers / industry spokesman or b) scientists. Instead of telling us why we should not choose option b, how about you explain why you think option a is the more rational choice?
  18. RE: # scaddenp at 15:17 PM on 13 April, 2011 RE: "If you found replacement for current theory of climate that got human's off the hook, then a noble prize awaits e of you." The assumption you are making is that politically funded science is presumed to be of noble purpose. ( -Snip- ) RE: "You also seem to have the mistaken idea that funding is for "pro" and not "anti". In fact funding is for finding out what we dont know and the funders of science (unlike SPPI, Koch, Cato etc) are indifferent to what the outcome of the research is." ( -Snip- ) RE: "Your assumptions sir are flawed." This is simply cheap characterization lacking any proof.....Sir.
    Response: [DB] Political/ideological statements A-R-E-N-O-T-O-K. Discussion of the science = OK. Be advised: Last warning. Sir.
  19. Bruce >"My primary support of this is the near certain fact that any such funding is either minuscule or non-existent. I look forward to your refutation of my proposition." >"Oh, finally is Dr Landsea now a "kook" or a "denier?" http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/landsea_bio.html" Oops, I think you just scored an own goal. Your argument was that skeptics are pressured out or unfunded by the government, but then you went and posted a link that shows a) Landsea is still in the employ of the government and b) listing the extensive research Landsea has been able to perform since since his IPCC resignation letter. What point are you trying to make again? If your argument is specifically about the IPCC, then please take it to one of the multiple IPCC threads listed here. This thread is about general consensus among climate scientists.
  20. 316 Frykman "My primary support of this is the near certain fact that any such funding is either minuscule or non-existent. I look forward to your refutation of my proposition." Ammeter time in argumentation, I see. Make a vague statement that something ill defined doesn't exist and ask for it to be refuted? You will really have to raise your game if you want to engage here. To help you do that I suggest you look at a certain Mr. PoopDrecks list of "anti-AGW publications". The reason to do this is that what you'll find is that the whole idea is totally meaningless in reality. The reality of the practice of science is no one has ever had a grant or got a job to prove or disprove AGW. Working scientist - which I'd hazard you have absolutely no experience of - get jobs and grants (public funding, at least) to go measure things, do analysis, build models; which reflect and improve our understanding of reality - another thing I'd hazard you are a stranger to. If you find a public funded grant which sets out to prove or disprove an ideology - that would be a bad thing and should be queried. That's been tried here and there - see, for example, Cucinelli V Mann - and, to date, has failed. The failure of such law suites is, so far as it goes, a legal refutation of your proposition. However, none of that applies to private funding, as for example the funding of the Koch brothers - which is targeted specifically at people who promise, although may fail, to disprove AGW. I've no doubt that's a waste of typing. And, unless you take advice and raise your game; you won't get much more.
  21. Bruce Frykman @323, the correct suposition when a debater breaks up his opponents sentences line by line, or into even smaller fragments, as you do, is tht the debater is dishonest, and cannot rebut their opponent when the sentences are taken in context. This impression is reinforced when they treat metaphor as literal utterances. I have no time for such fools, and hence not time for you. I will only comment that if you are going to push conspiracy theories of science (as you are), then at least be honest enough to call it what it is. If scientists are deliberately not reporting adverse results, and discuss together how to avoid the adverse results coming to light as you maintain, then they are involved in a conspiracy.
  22. Well Bruce @326, at least you seem to be in agreement with the main topic of this thread; there is scientific consensus on global warming. It is the orthodox position and if you are going to challenge it I suggest providing evidence.
  23. RE: les - 323 "Ammeter time in argumentation, I see. Make a vague statement that something ill defined doesn't exist and ask for it to be refuted? You will really have to raise your game if you want to engage here." Let us see if this one meets your profile: If "we" [excludes the power elite].... don't break "our" [your] "addiction to fossil fuels" [access to free energy markets], then "n years from now" [after we are all dead] the earth will experience a "feverish" temperature rise that "may" [or equally may not] be .6 C above "natural variability" [that we cannot hope to quantify]. Now "deniers" have never been able to disprove this wonderful scientific theory. Therefore AGW science is "settled" Help, the coulombs are melting my computer.
    Response: [muoncounter] Still have yet to see any actual evidence on any of these points. Forget the ammeter, worry about the credibility meter.
  24. This is index number 329
    Response: [Dikran Marsupial] There has been some deleting of posts that contravene the comments policy, but some replies to those comments may still be present. Please can we all re-start the discussion in a more moderate impersonal tone, and try to keep on-topic.
  25. (mods, I'd suggest deleting my 329 now as it really makes no sense as you deleted my re-response to 327!) my re-response only said - in short - I don't see how 327 substantiates the claims in 316 as it contains no evidence of corrupt public grant allocation or corrupt recruitment to publicly funded research positions...
    Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Cheers, that re-statement simplifies matters considerably! Any responses please note the first item of the comments policy. Unsubstantiated accusations of corruption are not acceptable.

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