The Consensus Gap

The Consensus Gap is the difference between the public's perception of how much agreement there is among scientists that humans are causing global warming (red distribution), compared to the actual 97% consensus among scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature (green line). The public perception data comes from a survey of a US representative sample conducted by John Cook (ongoing research), answering the question "How many climate experts agree that the global warming we are witnessing is a direct consequence of the burning of fossil fuels by humans?" The options available were Less than 5%, Between 5% to 10%, Between 10% to 30%, Between 30% to 50%, Between 50% to 70%, Between 70% to 90%, Between 90% to 95%, More than 95%.

The actual 97% scientific consensus comes from analysis of peer-reviewed studies (Doran & Zimmerman 2009, Anderegg et al 2010, Cook et al., 2013). This difference is significant because research shows that people are more likely to support policy actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions if they are aware of the overwhelming agreement among experts that we are causing global warming.

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