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The 97% consensus on global warming

What the science says...

Select a level... Basic Intermediate Advanced

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

Climate Myth...

There is no consensus

"[...] And I'll mention that the stat on the 97% of - of scientists is based on one discredited study." (Ted Cruz)

At a glance

What is consensus? In science, it's when the vast majority of specialists agree about a basic principle. Thus, astronomers agree that the Earth orbits around the Sun. Biologists accept that tadpoles hatch out from frog-spawn and grow into adult frogs. Almost all geologists agree that plate tectonics is real and you'd be hard-placed to find a doctor who thinks smoking is harmless.

In each above case, something has been so thoroughly looked into that those who specialise in its study have stopped arguing about its basic explanation. Nevertheless, the above examples were all once argued about, often passionately. That's how progress works.

The reaching of scientific consensus is the product of an often lengthy time-line. It starts with something being observed and ends with it being fully explained. Let's look at a classic and highly relevant example.

In the late 1700s, the Earth-Sun distance was calculated. The value obtained was 149 million kilometres. That's incredibly close to modern measurements. It got French physicist Joseph Fourier thinking. He innocently asked, in the 1820s, something along these lines:

"Why is Planet Earth such a warm place? It should be an ice-ball at this distance from the Sun."

Such fundamental questions about our home planet are as attractive to inquisitive scientists as ripened fruit is to wasps. Fourier's initial query set in motion a process of research. Within a few decades, that research had experimentally shown that carbon dioxide has heat-trapping properties.

Through the twentieth century the effort intensified, particularly during the Cold War. At that time there was great interest in the behaviour of infra-red (IR) radiation in the atmosphere. Why? Because heat-seeking missiles home in on jet exhausts which are IR hotspots. Their invention involved understanding what makes IR tick.

That research led to the publication of a landmark 1956 paper by Gilbert Plass. The paper's title was, “The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change”. It explained in detail how CO2 traps heat in our atmosphere. Note in passing that Plass used the term "Climatic Change" all the way back then. That's contrary to the deniers' frequent claim that it is used nowadays because of a recent and motivated change in terminology.

From observation to explanation, this is a classic illustration of the scientific method at work. Fourier gets people thinking, experiments are designed and performed. In time, a hypothesis emerges. That is a proposed explanation. It is made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.

Once a hypothesis is proposed, it becomes subject to rigorous testing within the relevant specialist science groups. Testing ensures that incorrect hypotheses fall by the wayside, because they don't stand up to scrutiny. But some survive such interrogation. As their supporting evidence mounts up over time, they eventually graduate to become theories.

Theories are valid explanations for things that are supported by an expert consensus of specialists. Gravity, jet aviation, electronics, you name it, all are based on solid theories. They are known to work because they have stood the test of time and prolonged scientific inquiry.

In climate science today, there is overwhelming (greater than 97%) expert consensus that CO2 traps heat and adding it to the atmosphere warms the planet. Whatever claims are made to the contrary, that principle has been established for almost seventy years, since the publication of that 1955 landmark paper.

Expert consensus is a powerful thing. None of us have the time or ability to learn about everything/ That's why we frequently defer to experts, such as consulting doctors when we’re ill.

The public often underestimate the degree of expert consensus that our vast greenhouse gas emissions trap heat and warm the planet. That is because alongside information, we have misinformation. Certain sections of the mass-media are as happy to trot out the latter as the former. We saw a very similar problem during the COVID-19 pandemic and it cost many lives.

For those who want to learn more, a much longer detailed account of the history of climate science is available on this website.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "At a glance" section. Read a more technical version below or dig deeper via the tabs above!


Further details

We know full well that we don’t have the time or capacity to learn about everything, so we frequently defer to the conclusions of experts. Without experienced people using their expertise to perform many vital tasks – and without new people constantly entering such occupations – society would quickly disintegrate.

The same is true of climate change: we defer to the expert consensus of climate scientists. Indeed, public perception of the scientific consensus with regard to global warming has been found to be an important gateway into other enlightened climate-related attitudes - including policy support. 

Nine consensus studies

Let's take a look at summaries of the key studies, featured in the graphic above, into the degree of consensus. These have been based on analyses of large samples of peer-reviewed climate science literature or surveys of climate and Earth scientists. These studies are available online through e.g. Google Scholar. That slightly different methodologies reached very similar conclusions is a strong indicator that those conclusions are robust.

Oreskes 2004

In this pioneering paper, a survey was conducted into all peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject 'global climate change', published between 1993 and 2003. The work showed that not a single paper, out of the 928 examined, rejected the consensus position that global warming is man-made. 75% of the papers agreed with the consensus position while 25% made no comment either way.

Doran & Zimmerman 2009

A survey of 3,146 Earth scientists asked the question, "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" Overall, 82% of the scientists answered yes. However, what was most interesting was the type of response compared to the level of expertise in climate science. Of scientists who were non-climatologists and didn't publish research, 77% answered yes. In contrast, 97.5% of actively-publishing climatologists responded yes. As the level of active research and specialization in climate science increases, so does agreement that humans are significantly changing global temperatures. The paper concludes:

"It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists."

Anderegg et al. 2010

This study of 1,372 climate science researchers found that (i) 97–98% of the researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) as outlined by the IPCC and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers. 

Cook et al. 2013

A Skeptical Science-based analysis of over 12,000 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject 'global climate change' and 'global warming', published between 1991 and 2011, found that over 97% of the papers taking a position on the subject agreed with the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of the project, the scientist authors were emailed and rated over 2,000 of their own papers. Once again, over 97% of the papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agreed that humans are causing it.

Verheggen et al. 2014

Results were presented from a survey held among 1868 scientists studying various aspects of climate change, including physical climate, climate impacts, and mitigation. The survey was at the time unique in its size, broadness and level of detail. Consistent with other research, it was found that as the level of expertise in climate science grew, so too did the level of agreement on anthropogenic causation. 90% of respondents with more than 10 climate-related peer-reviewed publications (about half of all respondents), explicitly agreed with anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) being the dominant driver of recent global warming. The respondents’ quantitative estimate of the GHG contribution appeared to strongly depend on their judgement or knowledge of the cooling effect of aerosols.

Stenhouse et al. 2014

In a survey of all 1,854 American Meteorological Society members with known e-mail addresses, achieving a 26.3% response rate, perceived scientific consensus was the strongest predictor of views on global warming, followed by political ideology, climate science expertise, and perceived organisational conflict.

Carlton et al 2015

Commenting that the extent to which non-climate scientists are skeptical of climate science had not so far been studied via direct survey, the authors did just that. They undertook a survey of biophysical scientists across disciplines at universities in the Big 10 Conference. Most respondents (93.6%) stated that mean temperatures have risen. Of the subset that agreed temperatures had risen, the following question was then asked of them: "do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" The affirmative response to that query was 96.66%.

Cook et al. 2016

In 2015, authors of the above studies joined forces to co-author a paper, “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming”. Two key conclusions from the paper are as follows:

(i) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, somewhere between 90% and 100% of climate scientists agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists. (ii) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.

Lynas et al. 2021

In this paper, from a dataset of 88,125 climate-related peer-reviewed papers published since 2012, these authors examined a randomly-selected subset of 3000 such publications. They also used a second sample-weighted approach that was specifically biased with keywords to help identify any sceptical papers in the whole dataset. Twenty-eight sceptical papers were identified within the original dataset using that approach, as evidenced by abstracts that were rated as implicitly or explicitly sceptical of human-caused global warming. It was concluded that the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, expressed as a proportion of the total publications, exceeds 99% in the peer reviewed scientific literature.

Myers et al. 2021

This study revisited the 2009 consensus among geoscientists, while exploring different ways to define expertise and the level of agreement among them. The authors sent 10,929 invitations to participate in the survey, receiving 2,780 responses. In addition, the number of scientific publications by these self-identified experts in the field of climate change research was quantified and compared to their survey response on questions about climate change. Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found that agreement on anthropogenic global warming was high at 91% to 100% and generally increases with expertise. Out of a group of 153 independently confirmed climate experts, 98.7% of those scientists agreed that the Earth is warming mostly because of human activities such as burning fossil fuels. Among the subset with the highest level of expertise, these being independently-confirmed climate experts who each published 20+ peer-reviewed papers on climate change between 2015 and 2019, there was 100% agreement.

Public Polls and Consensus

Opinion polls are not absolute in the same way as uncontestable scientific evidence but they nevertheless usefully indicate in which way public thinking is heading. So let's look at a couple taken 13 years apart. A 15-nation World Public Opinion Poll in 2009 PDF), with 13,518 respondents, asked, among other questions, “Is it your impression that among scientists, most think the problem is urgent and enough is known to take action?” Out of all responses, just 51% agreed with that. Worse, in six countries only a minority agreed: United States (38%), Russia (23%), Indonesia (33%), Japan (43%), India (48%), and Mexico (48%). Conversely, the two highest “agree” scores were among Vietnamese (69%) and Bangladeshis (70%) - perhaps unsurprisingly.

The two other options people had to choose from were that “views are pretty evenly divided” (24% of total respondents), or “most think the problem is not urgent, and not enough is known to take action“ (15%). American and Japanese respondents scored most highly on “views are pretty evenly divided” (43 and 44% respectively).

How such a pervasive misperception arose, regarding the expert consensus on climate change, is no accident. Regular readers of this website's resources will know that instead, it was another product of deliberate misinformation campaigning by individuals and organizations in the United States and other nations around the world. These are people who campaign against action to reduce carbon emissions because it suits their paymasters if we continue to burn as much as possible. 

Step forward to 2022 and the situation has perhaps improved, but there's still some way to go. A recent poll, Public Perceptions on Climate change (PDF), was conducted by the Policy Institute, based at King's College London, UK. It quizzed samples of just over 2,000 people from each of six countries (UK, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Italy and Germany). The survey asked the question: “To the best of your knowledge, what percentage of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening?” The following averages were returned: the UK sample thought 65%, the average of the whole survey was 68% and the highest was Ireland at 71%. Clearly, although public perception of expert consensus is growing, there's still plenty of room for strategies to communicate the reality and to shield people from the constant drip-feed of misinformation.

Expert and Public Consensus

Finally, let's consider the differences between expert and public consensus. Expert consensus is reached among those who have studied complex problems and know how to collect and work with data, to identify what constitutes evidence and evaluate it. This is demanding work requiring specific skill-sets and areas of expertise, preparation for which requires years of study and training. 

Public consensus, in contrast, tends to occur only when something is blindingly obvious. For example, a serial misinformer would struggle if they tried running a campaign denying the existence of owls. Everyone already knows that of course there are owls. There is public consensus because we see and hear owls, for real or on the TV or radio. But complex issues are more prone to the antics of misinformers. We saw examples of misinformation during the COVID pandemic, in some cases with lethal outcomes when misinformed people failed to take the risks seriously. There's a strong parallel with climate change: it is imperative we accept the expert consensus and not kick the can down the road until the realisation it is real becomes universal – but utterly inescapable.


Update May 26, 2023: The "At a glance" section was updated to improve readability.

Last updated on 26 May 2023 by John Mason. View Archives

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Related Arguments

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:

Lead author John Cook explains the 2016 "Consensus on consensus" paper.

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 401 to 425 out of 955:

  1. Rickoxo, if you say that the Earth has warmed and that humans have played a significant role, then you have to describe the mechanism. The only mechanism that fits those two conditions and the actual data is a large increase in atmospheric CO2. Once you understand what such an increase in atmospheric CO2 does (forces temp and ocean acidification), then you can factor in all of the feedbacks by applying the temp increase to all other climatological systems. The hard work is in figuring out the dynamic integration of these systems. Accepting those two conditions in the question is, essentially, accepting the theory of AGW--as long as you accept the established physical model (Kirchoff, S-B, etc. ad nauseum). It is clear now, after decades of warming, that there are few negative feedbacks. Most are positive, including the big ones (albedo and water vapor). It's possible that a major negative feedback awaits in the wings. Research suggests not. That wouldn't matter so much for the basic theory, though. It's warming, and we did it, and as long as we continue to do what we did and what we're doing, it will continue to produce the same physical response (worsening, of course). That's what 97% of climate scientists agree with. Indeed, if the question had been framed thusly ("Will an increase in atmospheric CO2 cause lower tropospheric warming?") then I imagine the percentage would jump to 99%.
  2. I get that Doran (2009) is just one study, but we can't argue about every paper and every thread all at the same time, so it makes sense to me to see what Doran (2009) actually proves, especially since I had never heard of it before I got here and folks on this site brought it up and cited it as evidence. DSL, I have no problem saying CO2 is a mechanism for warming and represents the significant role humans have played, I accept that 100% and I bet that most skeptic scientists would agree as well. The issue is the jump you're making from Doran's simple two questions (has the planet warmed since 1800 and have humans played a significant part) to your statement that accepting those two is essentially accepting the theory of AGW. Doran says pretty much what you said at the end of his piece, "It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. I agree that the planet has warmed since 1800, but agreeing with that does not in any way commit me to agreeing that humans caused the majority of that warming. The biggest flaw in Doran's survey is the wording of the human impact question. Having a significant effect does not mean anything about size. You said you were in ed research so you know tests for significance mean very little, effect sizes are everything. I get CO2 has gone up, I mostly get it causes warming but I am not convinced how much warming it's caused, what percent of the variance in temperature from 1800 till now has been caused by humans. Doran never asked this question so he has no grounds to speculate on an answer and when folks here cite the results from this survey as an example of agreeing with AGW science in general, that jump doesn't follow from the data. It could follow from all sorts of other places, but it doesn't get any support from Doran (2009). When Doran said there is no debate over the role of played by human activity, he has no evidence for that statement. The wording of his human impact question is so poor that it leaves open all sorts of possibilities for yes answers on the survey that wouldn't at all indicate agreement with ICPP conclusions or even his own summary. Because he included nothing at all about the degree to which human activity is responsible for the warming since 1800, the degree to which human activity explains the variance in temperatures, just saying 90%+ of scientists surveyed agree that human activity deserves to be in the list of factors is not a helpful piece of information. It says nothing about Doran being a fraud or dumb or anything, just that that survey question isn't useful in supporting the argument for a strong statement of consensus (like IPCC 2007). It also doesn't in any way imply there isn't consensus, it gives no evidence against consensus, but Doran (2009) is not evidence of a consensus of any significant position. If I were a scientist receiving this survey and unless I wanted to lie to thwart what I thought was the intention of the survey, I'd answer yes to both of those questions as well and I don't know of many skeptics that wouldn't as well. But when you have a question that doesn't reliably differentiate betweeen two fairly distinct groups of participants, it's just a bad question. And since we've never seen any of the other data and Doran says these are his two most important findings, it pretty much knocks out any usefulness of his study. In the light of this site as a model of peer review, I saw a response to Doran by Murray Goot (http://www.garnautreview.org.au/update-2011/commissioned-work/the-%27scientigic-consensus-on-climate-change%27.pdf). The author made the same point I'm making, that the question is so poorly worded as to make it of little value, but the author goes on to give a broader lit review saying there's other evidence of consensus so Doran isn't necessarily wrong. Again, I'm saying nothing about there not being consensus, I'm not saying Doran did fraud or anything bad. Writing surveys is incredibly challenging work and sometimes in writing questions, you come up with ones that don't actually give you the information you were hoping to get at. I'd love to see folks on this site get that Doran (2009) is fundamentally flawed and stop referring to it as evidence of consensus.
  3. 406, Rickoxo, You seem to put a lot of thought into this. I think part of what you need to realize is that this need for scientifically establishing a consensus is itself a red herring. People don't ask to see scientific proof that scientists believe that the genetic code surrounding ATCG is accurate, or that planets really have been discovered around other stars. What we have is: 1) A branch of science where the people who work in the field know what is accepted and what is not to varying, imperfectly fuzzy degrees (i.e. normal science) 2) A group of people who have questioned the validity of the science because they don't like the answer 3) The fact that the vast majority of people in the field do accept the science and the conclusions as far as they go 4) A group of people who then take it a step further and question not only the science, but whether scientists actually agree about the science 5) A scientist who created a study to determine the strength and characteristics of any consensus 6) A group of people who then take exception to the study, insisting that it is invalid for various reasons (not a representative sample, not a well worded question, not applicable to the problem as a whole) Do you see a pattern here? Do you see this happening with any of the other thousands and thousands of areas of science? My own opinion concerning your opinion is that if you don't trust the consensus or Doran, then do what the rest of us have done... read enough scientific papers to move beyond trying to water the consensus down to a yes no question and a percentage of respondents, and instead read enough of the current literature to realize how few people disagree and how many people do agree with each other's findings. Personally, I do wish Doran would repeat his study to accomplish what you're asking. Make it a long questionnaire, with more specific questions and a larger population sample. But honestly, I don't see the point, and I don't need that degree of analysis to define the consensus for me, and I think that most people (I'm not saying you) who are requiring that sort of proof of consensus are just going to move on and add a point number 7 (and then 9, and then 11) to my list above.
  4. Rickoxo, What about Anderegg 2010?
  5. Sphaerica, while I get the issue of consensus is a bit of a red herring, I think that consensus actually serves as a proxy for is the important question, is the science settled? Attempting to assess consensus gives us a window into that question. I like your progression from 1-6, but I don't quite buy the pattern idea that it at least hits me you're suggesting. I had never heard of Doran (2009), it was cited here as evidence that scientist agree in the high 90% range with the basic premises of GWS. That is a simple proposition that can be evaluated apart from being a never ending progression of denial at every turn. It hits me that as part of the peer-review process of making sure only the best quality resources get cited as evidence for GWS positions, I'd think the GWS community would kick out the Doran paper because it so easily opens them up to criticism. I partly picked the issue of consensus because it's more accessible to the non-scientist, I live in the world of grant writing and publishing so I have a lot of experience with some of the effects of consensus and I'm very curious about the proposition that the science is settled. Since I am not so capable (or have the time/energy) of going into all the science and determining its validity for myself, one of the ways I can partially address the question is look around in the community of experts to see the range of opinions expressed. Pretty much no one questions whether or not we should teach systematic phonics to support beginning readers--the consensus is established, the research base is solid and it's pretty much a done issue. But figuring out the line from yes teach systematic phonics, but the exact methods, the amount of time per/day, the books that best support phonics instruction, all of those secondary questions aren't so settled. Some of what I'm hoping to see in the consensus debate are the types of questions experts in the field say are a done deal and the types of questions they say are still open to debate.
  6. RickG, great cite, thanks for throwing it in. Wow, what a difference from Doran. Incredibly rigorous, careful, precise, hits me as a powerful study. Two things hit me most strongly in reading it, one, a slight problem with Anderegg's using publication frequency as a proxy for expertise, but the main thing, Anderegg's finding that 10% of climate scientists with at least 20 publications are unconvinced by the evidence for GWS. The 2 second take on Anderegg's using publication frequency as a proxy for expertise is that I think every single journal in which these articles were published are put out by scientific societies that have made public statements asserting that GWS is a settled issue. I don't think it's a reasonable assumption that the likelihood of getting published is equivalent for both sets of scientists. At least in education, it's much easier to get published in a journal that agrees with the major tenets of your research than in one that disagrees with them, even though both journals are dealing with the same topic. But the killer for me in this article, Anderegg came up with 90% in the convinced camp and 10% in the unconvinced camp (CE = 817, UE = 93), a hugely overwhelming and solid finding, but one that leaves 10% of climate scientists with at least 20 publications unconvinced by the evidence for GWS. So try out this idea and tell me if it helps folks understand what I'm facing as a skeptic. I absolutely guarantee, bet every penny I have, that there wouldn't be 93 out of 910 physicists with at least 20 journal publications who don't believe Newtonian mechanics describes simple observable motion of objects. Those laws are easy to understand, can be empirically validated any time and there wouldn't be 10% of the physicist community saying objects don't accelerate when they fall or momentum doesn't = mass times velocity. In the post on the homepage, "The Big Picture", Dana1981 wrote, "Sometimes people ask 'what would it take to falsify the man-made global warming theory?'. Well, basically it would require that our fundamental understanding of physics be wrong, because that's what the theory is based on. This fundamental physics has been scrutinized through scientific experiments for decades to centuries." If this is the case, how can 93 climate scientists with at least 20 publications not agree with you?
    Response:

    [DB] So, if 9 cardiologists out of 10 said you need open heart surgery STAT, but the outlier said to take 2 aspirins and see how you felt in the morning, you'd be OK with that?

    Similarly, if 9 out of 10 oncologists said you had a form of cancer requiring the most agressive course of chemo and radiation to survive, but the other one recommended some holistic therapy, you'd be OK with that?

    Because that is what you are essentially saying: the outlier has equal credibility.

  7. Rickoxo, be careful. You used Anderegg's term "unconvinced" early and then switched to "not agree." Your Newtonian example also devolves into an either-or (and only involves a single idea). I'll wager that 90% of those 10% agree with much of the basis of AGW but are unwilling to commit for one reason or another. Spencer and clouds, for example. You can be unconvinced by the theories of Freud but also find a lot of truth in them. As for the earlier complaint about the significance of the human contribution, it's up to the survey taker to interpret significance. If you don't trust the survey maker with the word, how do you answer? This does turn into an either-or if you do use the statistical measure of significance. CO2 is the control knob, and the human injection of atmospheric CO2 has been the difference. You remain skeptical, though, based on the evidence of surveys. Surveys do not effectively measure the response to the complexity of the theory and, more importantly, its implications. If you're going to leave it at the survey level, then 90% should convince you. If I give you a 90% chance of winning a million dollars with a 10 dollar ticket, I don't think you'll pass the chance on to the next in line. If 90 people tell you you're about to get hit by a bus, and they all give the same reasons, and ten people tell you you're not but all their reasons are different, and some of the ten disagree with others of the ten, are you going to move your butt or keep sauntering? You can answer "I'm not convinced" with your academic mind, but your practical mind is screaming "move it!" Better yet, though, just work out the basics for yourself. It only takes a few hours--less if you accept certain assumptions. If you accept the absorption spectra of the ten most populous atmospheric gases, and if you accept the evidence of rising CO2 concentrations and the mass balance argument, then you're halfway there. Just accepting those basics will, in fact, stop you from having to read probably half of the "skeptical" arguments rebutted on this site. I will note that I'm with Sphaerica on this issue. Survey schmurvey. The survey still needs to be interpreted for the public, and the public has been well-trained to say, "yah, but it's just a survey and surveys can say anything." A survey certainly isn't going very far in the professional community. They make great copy for guys like Joe Romm, but he's largely preaching to the choir.
  8. Rick. For the non-expert one way to see, literally see, the accumulated evidence is right here on Skeptical Science at History of Climate Science. Watching the evidence pile up on one hand, and the tiny assembly of other papers on the sidelines is striking. As for "...the types of questions experts in the field say are a done deal and the types of questions they say are still open to debate." The central issue is now and always has been the radiative physics of gases. This tells us what to expect for the atmosphere at eventual equilibrium. The questions that are up for examination or needing further evidence are, by and large, about the transition period. I'd put them in 2 categories. One is about marching orders - what goes first and at what speed. Clearly the loss of Arctic ice has elbowed its way to the front at astonishing speed and shows no sign of slackening that pace. Floods, droughts, crop losses look, so far, to accord with expectations of the amount of warming so far in evidence. Things like major SLR, loss of icesheets and methane releases from clathrates are still in the 'could be a century or so, might be a couple of decades' basket. The other category is 'work in progress'. Lots of this on transient sensitivity. Lots more for assembling and analysing data on OHC, feedbacks and the like. This category is also the 'more funds needed' and 'more time needed' group. If we'd had half a dozen more satellites collecting more and different data for more examination and analysis over the last 10 years, a lot of the topics people like to pick arguments about (eg clouds, aerosols) would already be done and dusted. But about warming and its cause, not a skerrick of doubt.
  9. Rickoxo, I think one important concept concerning both the Dorian and the Anderegg papers is that they stick specifically with the scientists who work and publish in the field. Conversely, what we see from the skeptic/denial side is signed petitions from people completely outside any field of research pertaining to climate science with little exception. I think it is also noteworthy to point out that the few skeptical papers that do get published are rarely with the mainstream journals and generally are reviewed by reviewers not in the field of those submissions. As for the qualifying idea of number of publications and citations to one's credit, it is very significant. Experience does count and a paper that is cited by others numerous times indicates good work. Papers with no or few citations are generally of poor quality or contain little if any useful information.
  10. DSL#411: "Survey schmurvey." Agreed. But look how many times SkS is dragged into yet another harangue about the survey based on the easily-misinterpreted 'consensus' question. Far more relevant was the comment made here, scientific societies and academies across the world agree with these statements. In fact, because of that we have not consensus but consilience, which is explained further here: Multiple strands of evidence from varied sources all leading to the same conclusion, as opposed to 'our club members all agree with other'. As was said here, that's the only important survey: a survey of the evidence. Don't believe the results of what is basically an opinion poll? Spare us your opinion; show us the evidence the science is wrong.
  11. "So try out this idea and tell me if it helps folks understand what I'm facing as a skeptic. I absolutely guarantee, bet every penny I have, that there wouldn't be 93 out of 910 physicists with at least 20 journal publications who don't believe Newtonian mechanics describes simple observable motion of objects. Those laws are easy to understand, can be empirically validated any time and there wouldn't be 10% of the physicist community saying objects don't accelerate when they fall or momentum doesn't = mass times velocity." I think you've picked the wrong analogy with Newtonian mechanics. The reason for this is that, in the end, there are flaws in Newtonian mechanics and this was known at least at the turn of the 20th century. If you want to choose an appropriate analogy, you need to look at what supplanted Newtonian mechanics: relativity. When Einstein came out with his theories of relativity, it was something of a paradigm shift, much like the recent discoveries in climate science. A lot of people didn't like that. Including a lot of physicists (including at least two Nobel laureates). (There's an article in New Scientist but the text of the article can be found here. There's also a Wikipedia article.) Newtonian mechanics are, as you said, clear and easy to understand. Relativity, on the other hand, is non-intuitive and difficult to understand. It challenged people's notion of what the universe was like and people didn't like that. Reading about the relativity denial, it has struck me that there is a lot of similarity between them and the current climate change deniers. The relativity deniers complained that they couldn't get published because of a conspiracy by the proponents of relativity, just as we hear that scientists opposed to climate change can't get published due to conspiracies against them. If you want to use a current analogy, I think you need to look at evolution. Like climate change science, there's an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting evolution. And, yet, you will still find plenty of people who deny it, even biologists, because it challenges their view of the universe.
  12. Rickoxo @410, I think your interpretation of Anderegg is simplistic. You have assumed that for a given climate scientist who has published 20 or more papers, they are as likely to be included in Anderegg's survey if they are "Convinced by the Evidence" compared to if they are not "Convinced by the Evidence". That is a distinctly unsafe assumption. As is shown by the relative publication records of the CE and UE groups, only people with substantial records of achievement were included in the CE sample. In contrast, for those who are UE, no significant record of achievement was required, as is indicated by the high proportion of UE researchers with fewer than 20 publications. The consequence of this is that we can be sure that nearly all UE researchers with 20 plus publications found their way into Anderegg's study. In contrast, there is a significant probability that CE researchers with 20 plus publications where not included in the study. If we assume that the relative frequency of publication number is the same between the two groups, ie, that across all climate researchers, the proportion of CE researchers with 100+ publications relative to CE researchers with 20+ publications is approximately equal to the same proportion for UC researchers, then Anderegg's survey technique under represents CE researchers with 20+ publications by a factor of three or more. (This assumption amounts to the assumption that the greater "expertise" of CE researchers found by Anderegg is a function of greater numbers of CE researchers rather than of significantly greater intelligence.) If that assumption reflects reality, then UC researchers with 20+ publications represent 3.65% or less of all climate researchers with 20+ publications. However, I do not think we are justified in drawing that specific a conclusion. The conclusion that they represent 10% of all climate researchers with 20+ publications seems far more perilous to me. Still even with a 3.65% proportion, you might still be inclined to run your Newton argument. What that argument neglects is several key differences between Newtonian dynamics and climate science: 1) Newtonian Dynamics does not, as climate science does challenge some people's political ideologies; 2) Newtonian Dynamics does not, as climate science does challenge some people's value systems; 3) Newtonian Dynamics does not, as climate science does challenge some people's self image; 4) Newtonian Dynamics does not, as climate science does challenge some people's economic interests; and 5) Unlike Newtonian Dynamics, there are several billionaires (and several billion dollar corporations) that will actively fund people to challenge climate science. Given these clear sociological reasons for dissent, the proper comparison is not with a science like Newtonian Dynamics that challenges nobodies world view, but a science like evolutionary theory which as certain as Newtonian Dynamics, but challenging for many people.
  13. 409, Rickoxo,
    I'd think the GWS community would kick out the Doran paper because it so easily opens them up to criticism.
    I personally don't see the paper as part of GWS. It's published by a GW scientist, but it's social science. Maybe that's why it's weak, and a social scientist should tackle the issue. Interestingly, that's what Wegman tried to do, too, to use social sciences against the consensus, implying that part of the consensus results from confirmation bias resulting from an old boy network among climate scientists. Interestingly, he used a network of his own friends to write his own report, and has been accused of grossly plagiarizing along the way. But my whole point is "why all the emphasis on social sciences and confirming the consensus?" This isn't an issue with any subject except climate science. Why? Because questioning the science won't work in this case, so questioning the scientists is even better. Sow mistrust and doubt. And you're buying into it.
    ...there wouldn't be 93 out of 910 physicists with at least 20 journal publications who don't believe Newtonian mechanics describes simple observable motion of objects.
    This is a strawman. How do you jump from Newtonian mechanics, a hundreds years old foundation of physics, to cardiologists. How about instead whether or not cholesterol intake affects future heart disease? See this article on a new cholesterol drug. It's an interesting parallel. There is a dispute over the efficacy versus dangers of the drug. The specialists, cardiologists, are primarily in agreement (I can't find the stats, but I'll bet it's only 9 of 10). The FDA panel voted 12 to 4. The general physicians strongly disagree! What does this sound like to you? And this example isn't perfect, because it's about a particular drug, with extreme (dangerous) side effects. But what about statin's in general? I'll bet you'll find cardiologists that don't think they should be used, and even more general physicians in that camp. So... do you think people shouldn't take statin's to protect against heart disease? More important, do you see all sorts of studies that need to prove the consensus before people will buy into this whole, questionable "cholesterol" thing?
    Response:

    [DB] To be fair, I believe I introduced cardiologists (and oncologists) into the discussion as an analogy.  However, having sold statins and Crestor to cardiologists, lipidologists and primary care physicians for years, you have the gist of it.  The experts who are using advanced lipid testing are now able to parse out those individuals for whom statins will be ineffective much more readily than before.  And Crestor's unique primary prevention indication is still limited to those individuals who still have normal lipid levels but a combination of other risk factors, thereby constraining its prophylactic use.

    By now I'm waaaay off-topic & apologize for that.  Moral:  get advanced lipid testing done.  It may save your life.

  14. Sphaerica @417, the purported weaknesses of the Doran survey are entirely imaginary. The questions asked where phrased exactly the same as questions asked in a previous Gallop Poll. The idea was to compare expert opinion with public opinion, and that can only be done by asking the same questions. That does mean the Doran survey does not give us as detailed a break down on some issues as we would like, but just because research does not answer some of the questions we would like answered does not mean it was not effective research for answering the questions the researchers posed.
  15. Rickoxo#410: "10% of climate scientists with at least 20 publications" When did you establish that 'at least 20 publications' guarantees valid work? That qualifies Spencer, Lindzen (240 publications!), Svensmark, Akasofu ... as trusted experts. Why not look, instead, at the quality of their work, rather than the quantity? And do the same with the likes of Trenberth, Hansen, Rahmstorf, Schneider ... ? Hint: That's hard work, but it is exactly the purpose of this site. You say you're in education (as am I): How many surveys are there that directly contradict one another? One survey says class size must be reduced; another that students in smaller classes don't show higher levels of achievement. One survey says we must give more standardized tests; another says testing deters meaningful teaching. A well-known climate 'skeptic' once responded to a question about the value of opinion polls with a scornful 'So?'
  16. What an abundance of comments. Stepping back from the issue of consensus and GWS for a second, part of what I'm trying to find here is the nature of the argumentation. Again, I didn't bring up Doran, I had never heard of it, but it was used as evidence by people here that there is consensus. DSL, the word significant is not open to interpretation in research journals, it only has one meaning, and Doran knows what it is. The words of Doran's second question are exceptionally clear. But by asking about significance and not the strength of the effect, his survey gives no useful information. I would offer that the worst thing to do with a bad survey is attempt to "interpret" it so that it accomplishes what you wished it would have on its own. I get there's a lot more evidence in favor of consensus and tons of evidence about GWS I haven't begun to look at, but for this piece, can folks admit its not evidence and doesn't support the positions of this site? If you want to ask skeptics to let go of arguments that don't support their skeptic position then folks here need to be able to let go of arguments that don't support the GWS position.
  17. 420, Rickoxo,
    ...folks here need to be able to let go of arguments that don't support the GWS position.
    That's true, and I for one will be more than happy to do so when you find such an argument and make an adequate case. You have completely and totally failed to do so here.
  18. DB on Anderegg, so your question is totally valid and I completely agree (as well as with DSL's examples) that the huge bulk of evidence is on your side. I'm not debating that. A big part of what I'm trying to do in this thread is get at the question of consensus around the issue of the science being settled. Is there consensus on that and if so, what does that mean? So here's what hits me as the critical issue. If the science is "settled" in the way I hear Dana1981 saying, then it is logically impossible for anyone to be a climate scientist who doesn't agree with GWS. The degree to which they disagree with GWS demonstrates their lack of expertise in climate science. There are no possible legitimate alternative interpretations of the data. The other option is that 90% of climate scientists (according to Anderegg (2010) evaluate the current evidence and are convinced that GWS has the most explanatory power, fits the data most accurately and can answer the most arguments against it. But, 10% of legitimate climate scientists aren't convinced of that and have evidence-based reasons why not. Their disagreement doesn't indicate a lower degree of expertise. They could be less expert for all sorts of other reasons, but disagreement with GWS doesn't indicate lower or complete lack of expertise. The big difference between the two and why I chose Newton's laws as an example, in option 1, disagreeing with F = MA for simple motion (I'm not talking about relativistic motion) demonstrates you don't know physics and everyone who knows physics knows that. In option 2, the climate scientists who are in the 90% camp can understand the logic and reasoning of the 10% scientists, they don't consider them frauds, myths peddlers or oil company shills, they get that the evidence is not entirely conclusive and there are legitimate alternative explanations, albeit ones that the huge majority of the climate science community finds unconvincing. But those are sooooooooo different. At this site, it mostly seems like group 1. How do you know if someone is a legitimate scientist, they accept GWS. Anyone who doesn't is a myth peddler. So, can a legitimate climate scientist look at all the evidence currently available, and come to a scientifically valid conclusion that disagrees with IPCC? Again, I'm not talking disagreeing that the planet has warmed since 1800 or does CO2 affect the climate. But let's say with the single premise, "we can quantify the amount of warming human activity is causing, and verify that we're responsible for essentially all of the global warming over the past 3 decades?" Could a legitimate climate scientist disagree with that statement and not be a fraud, myth peddler or oil company shill? Could other climate scientists who think we have caused all the warming look at the reasoning used by the skeptic and agree that it is valid reasoning because the data are not entirely conclusive?
  19. Sphaerica, I'm not at all saying that Doran has anything to do with climate science. Both he and Anderegg did a great job of saying their papers were about describing the state of the field and added nothing to the research base on climate science. I'm not saying anything different if that's what you're pointing out. But what I was trying to say in the quote you cited was that Doran (2009) was given by people at this site as evidence of the GWS position that there is overwhelming consensus for GWS science. I haven't disproved anything about actual science, but Doran's wording is too simple to argue against. "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" He didn't say which direction, he didn't define human activity and significant contributing factor says nothing about how much of a factor. In academic writing, significant is a term with precise and unequivocal meaning, it is not used in the more common place sense of important or substantial. Tests for significance are important in research and knowing that human activity is a significant contributing factor is great, but it says nothing about the degree to which it's a contributing factor or the role played by human activity in climate change. When Doran writes that debate in GWS over the role played by human activity is non-existant, that might be true, but he didn't provide any evidence for that statement. He could cite someone else, Anderegg maybe, but he didn't give evidence in favor of that statement. It's no big deal to do a bad survey or to have to chuck pieces of evidence that was supposed to argue in favor of your position but doesn't turn out to in the long run. It's a big deal if the peer-review community tries to say that a bad survey is still legitimate because the idea it's saying it found evidence for is corroborated in other places. I get that the quote at the end of Doran, the one about the debate being non-existent is a powerful quote, it's well written, it's clear, it's direct and it might even be true. But he didn't provide evidence it was true so to cite him as evidence opens you up to getting ridiculed for citing bad research in support of your positions.
  20. rickoxo@422: "How do you know if someone is a legitimate scientist, they accept GWS. Anyone who doesn't is a myth peddler." You continue to frame the argument in a manner that is entirely backwards. One is not a myth-peddler simply by 'disagreeing with IPCC.' One os a myth-peddler because one peddles myths. In this quest, you've missed the fact that this site challenges the work of those it labels myth-peddlers. When fault is found in their work, those faults are called out. Those who continually publicize conclusions based on work identified as flawed (or even false) are the myth-peddlers. What is shown time and again to be settled is the weight of the scientific evidence, not necessarily the scientific opinion. But in science, opinions don't carry much water. But you then pose the question a tad differently: ""we can quantify the amount of warming human activity is causing, and verify that we're responsible for essentially all of the global warming over the past 3 decades?" Could a legitimate climate scientist disagree with that statement" That's a new, vastly higher hurdle; some no doubt can and do disagree with your words 'quantify,' 'verify' and 'essentially all'. The IPCC statement typically quoted is not at all the same: Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. I find it fascinating that you've analyzed what is a higher-order science (one that is composed of parts from many disciplines - and therefore brings all of their uncertainties) through the lens of opinion polling, a kind of 'meta-knowledge' that does little more than introduce its own uncertainty. Its a bit like trying to measure a very long distance, not by using a meterstick (difficult enough), but by using a stick of uncertain length. But that's just my opinion.
  21. Rickoxo, Very good arguments. There are those (especially here) that will point to the Doran survey and claim that 97% believe in AGW. I cringe every time I here that. As you have detailed, the survey is quite vague, and the paper should not used as evidence for a consensus. The further problem with poeple using consensus is that they confuse what actually makes up the consensus. Yes, a vast majority agree that the planet has warmed and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The divergence occurs when asked, "how much?" You have alluded to this point quite well. While 90% may believe that we humans are warming the planet, how much we are warming the planet is very much open to debate. There are those you will jump from the Doran survery (or Anderegg) and claim that those same scientists who believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas also believe that the claims of large positive feedback and exponential warming. This is were the consensus breaks down, with a wide array of beliefs, each supported by scientific research. We currently have an "average" value of warming. Of course, muoncounter says it best, "in science, opinions don't carry much water." Whether 97, 90, or whatever believe in something does not necessarily make it true. Science is based on research, not opinions. This is not to say that it is not ture, but only that it does not supply evidence of its truth (either way, as you explained).
  22. Eric @ 425: "There are those you will jump from the Doran survery (or Anderegg) and claim that those same scientists who believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas also believe that the claims of large positive feedback and exponential warming. This is were the consensus breaks down, with a wide array of beliefs, each supported by scientific research. We currently have an "average" value of warming." For what it's worth, the Anderegg 2010 is neither a survey nor a poll and should not be associated as such. I also think it is important to realize that probably none of those consensus studies would have been conducted had the skeptic/denial side not stooped to the level of deliberate misinformation by compiling huge lists of climate change skeptics who were "scientists" but not climate scientists; but nevertheless suggesting they somehow have some expertise in the area.
  23. Agree Muon. Rickoxo, EtR raises an interesting point, and one that I tried to address earlier. He says, "the divergence occurs when asked, 'how much?'." This is the problem with asking about significance in this context. If humans are warming the planet, what does significance mean? Are you measuring over a day, a year, a decade, a century? If we get just a 1C global average increase just from CO2 per century, is that significant? If you say no, a thousand years from now you might say yes. If the effect of our aerosols masks that increase, is the effect still significant? Nature is trying to cool the Earth right now (orbital slightly and solar), so what do you measure significance from? The natural trend? The most recent climatological period? Pre-industrial? Significance is not a simple question here. There are also some who might answer the question thinking, "Well, we've hit peak oil, and emissions will soon decline, and we'll end up mitigating, so while we could, we'll never really hit the IPCC's middle-of-the-road scenarios, so I'll answer no." Yes, Doran knows what statistical significance is, but the survey question doesn't limit the conditions of significance. At this point in your travels into climate science, what would you answer to both Anderegg and Doran? And what is the confidence level of your answer? If you want to find out why there is not a 100% consensus, go to the publications. Ask Anderegg which scientists he found who did not demonstrate support for the theory. Ask Doran for the names of the 2.5% of climate scientists. Look at their reasons, their publications. You will then know why the claims of consensus are accurate. You'll gain environmental (contextual) knowledge that many of the posters here already have but that outsiders (survey readers) don't have. And now you see why it is so difficult to communicate the science to non-scientists--and why it is so easy for those who are motivated to do so to obfuscate, misinform, generate doubt, and generally stop we, as a whole, from doing anything about the growing problem.
  24. Eric the Red @425:
    " The divergence occurs when asked, "how much?" You have alluded to this point quite well. While 90% may believe that we humans are warming the planet, how much we are warming the planet is very much open to debate. There are those you will jump from the Doran survery (or Anderegg) and claim that those same scientists who believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas also believe that the claims of large positive feedback and exponential warming. This is were the consensus breaks down, with a wide array of beliefs, each supported by scientific research. We currently have an "average" value of warming."
    I know you would like this to be true, and you have asserted it on several occasions. They only thing lacking has been the evidence. Let's take scientific opinion first. Among climate scientists 62.01% think the IPCC accurately estimate the magnitude of future changes of temperature. A further 15.64% think the IPCC slightly under estimates the magnitude of future temperature changes, while 11.73 think that they slightly over estimate them. That means 89.93% of climate scientists think IPCC estimates of future temperature changes are accurate or only slightly inaccurate. A further 4.47% thinks the IPCC significantly under estimates future temperature changes, leaving just 6.15% who think they significantly over estimate those changes. Those figures are hardly signs of a consensus that has broken down. That means that there is a consensus (>90%) of climate scientists who believe the temperature increase for a doubling of CO2 is likely to be between 2 and 4.5 degrees C, a figure that is dangerous at anywhere in that range. Indeed, that is something the climate scientists also agree on, with over 60% being strongly convinced that climate change poses "a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity", with a further 31% being moderately convinced of that claim. Just 6% significantly doubt that possibility, and from those 6%, only a third are completely unconvinced of any danger.
  25. DSL, I don't think I have any basis for an assessment of the science yet, I'm still trying to get a handle on what the experts in the field believe. At some point I'll pick an aspect of the science and get as into the detail of that as I can, but for now, getting a sense of the degree to which experts in the field see the science as settled or open to debate but clearly leaning in a direction hits me as a useful starting point. I get that Doran didn't define the context under which he was asking about human contribution to climate change being significant, that's one of the flaws in his survey, but that still wouldn't change the meaning of significance once he defines the nature of the contribution he was talking about.

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