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97% global warming consensus paper surpasses half a million downloads

Posted on 23 June 2016 by dana1981

In 2013, a team of citizen science volunteers who collaborate on the climate myth debunking website published a paper finding a 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming in peer-reviewed research. Over the past 3 years, that paper has been downloaded more than 500,000 times. For perspective, that’s 4 times more than the second-most downloaded paper in the Institute of Physics journals (which includes Environmental Research Letters, where the 97% consensus paper was published).

The statistic reveals a remarkable level of interest for a peer-reviewed scientific paper. Over a three-year period, the study has been downloaded an average of 440 times per day, and the pace has hardly slowed. Over the past year, the download rate has remained high, at 415 per day.

Follow-up paper second-most-read

The 97% study and other consensus research has been attacked and misrepresented, which led to a follow-up paper in which authors of seven previous climate consensus studies collaborated to settle the question once and for all. The two key conclusions from the paper were:

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.

That follow-up paper, published two months ago, has already been downloaded 45,000 times. Interestingly, the 2013 consensus paper has returned to the top spot as currently the most-read paper in Environmental Research Letters, with the 2016 follow-up study coming in second.

Expert consensus is a gateway belief, strategically denied

Those who want to preserve the status quo have continued to deny and attack the expert consensus because it’s a “gateway belief”: when people are aware of the high level of scientific agreement on human-caused global warming, they’re more likely to accept that climate change is happening, that humans are causing it, and support policies to reduce carbon pollution. As Republican strategist Frank Luntz said in an infamous memo leaked in 2003:

Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.

Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.

Many contrarians have continued to follow this advice, and as a result, the public is still poorly misinformed about the magnitude of the expert consensus.

The ‘consensus gap’ is big, but shrinking

Social scientists have coined the term “consensus gap” to describe the large discrepancy between the actual 97% consensus, and the public perception that just half to two-thirds or experts agree on human-caused global warming. The consensus gap is likely a result of a concerted decades-long misinformation campaign by the fossil fuel industry, and false balance in media climate coverage.

However, since the publication of our 2013 paper, the consensus gap has modestly shrunk, and media coverage of the subject has become increasingly accurate. 

consensus perception

Survey data asking Americans if most scientists think global warming is happening. Illustration: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

While only 11% of Americans realize the expert consensus is above 90%, the percentage who realize that global warming is happening and human-caused is on the rise over the past several years.

97% consensus: important, but not new

The paper itself was not particularly novel.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Well said. My understanding is we have about 6 studies which show between 90 - 100% of climate scientists say we are altering the climate. Regardless of what study one considers the best, its a huge majority of climate scientists in basic agreement.

    There is not one study showing something substantially more controversial, like a 50 / 50 split. Climate sceptics have had decades and tens of millions of dollars from oil companies,etc, but have not come up with a study of climate scientists showing something like this. Surely that speaks for itself.

    This is probably because they know it wont give the results they want. Indeed they may have tried, and found they didn't like the results, so chose not to publish. And they better understand they will be put under the same scrutiny they apply to the likes of John Cooke.

    Therefore to me the debate on consensus is over. There's obviously a consensus. Can the sceptics please stop wasting everyone's time on this particular issue and move on. I don't know where they move on to, because recent high temperatures certainly dont help them.

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  2. nigelj,

    The skeptics are a product of the things that can be gotten away with in free market (or socialist or capitalist or communist) economics (or any other economic system that allows the abuse of marketing and power to unjustifiably drum up potential popularity for understandably unsustainable and damaging activity. The Soviet Union "also" produced damaging unsustainable results due to its economic activity).

    The potential to obtain personal benefit through the development and prolonging of understandably unsustainable and damaging activity is a powerful motivator for the way of thinking and resulting actions of many (but not all) humans.

    These people are unlikely to stop unless it is clear to them that there is greater likelihood of a personal negative consequence that is more significant than the potential benefit they hope to personally obtain, a perception of potential benefit being sold through deceptive marketing promoted by the kingpins of the pyramid schemes of unsustainable and damaging activity developed and promoted and prolonged in the political-economic system.

    An effective solution would be to change the political and economic system to ensure that those kingpins of promotion of understandably unsustainable and damaging ways of thinking and acting will not suceed and will likely suffer significant penalty for their efforts to maximize their personal gain any way they think they can get away with.

    That change of the political and economic systems globally would be important to avoid an over-reaction to the clearly damaging results being developed by the current arrangements made up by humans (climate change is not the only damaging result that has been developed).

    Free market economics (and capitalism) appropriately restrained to activity that is abl to be shown (being shown is different from being able to be deceptively marketed) to be advancing global humanity to a lasting better future for all is almost certain to be the only viable future for Free Market economics. But developing that change to enable free market economics to have a future is the responsibility of the Business and Political Scientists.

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