10 year anniversary of 97% consensus study

10 years after and still going strong!

Ten years ago today - on May 15, 2013 - our team published the paper Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature (Cook et al. 2013). Little did we know that our publication, organized as a citizens’ science project and published open access thanks to speedy crowdfunding support from Skeptical Science readers, would make such an impact and still be of much interest ten years later. But, that it’s still of interest is quite visible when visiting the Environmental Research Letters website where, together with other consensus-related publications, Cook at al. (2013) has been consistently among the Top 10 papers read. Other indicators of continued interest are the download numbers which currently are at 1.39 million and the Dimensions stats:

10 Years after stats

The text on the Dimensions page is interesting:

"This publication in Environmental Research Letters has been cited 778 times. 22% of its citations have been received in the past two years, which is higher than you might expect, suggesting that it is currently receiving a lot of interest.

Compared to other publications in the same field, this publication is extremely highly cited and has received approximately 121 times more citations than average."

Some highlights

A lot has happened since the paper was published and we’ve written about several milestones before, so here is just a short list of our favorite memories:

In April 2014, ERL announced that our paper was voted their best article in 2013

ERL certificate

In May 2014, John Oliver aired a sketch called “Climate Change Debate” in his “Last Week Tonight” show, which featured our paper. The video has been viewed more than 8.8 million times. 

[youtube id="cjuGCJJUGsg"]

In April 2016, authors of a number of consensus studies teamed up to co-author Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming (Cook et al. 2016) in response to Tol (2016). Interestingly, our “Consensus on consensus” paper has thus far been downloaded 826,650 times while the paper causing it to be written only shows 42,925 downloads.

In July 2019, our 97% consensus paper crossed 1 million downloads - quite an achievement for a scientific paper. It was the most downloaded paper not just at Environmental Research Letters but across all the ~80 journals published by the Institute of Physics.

Baseless attacks on our paper - and other consensus studies - kept coming and in some cases, the attackers didn’t even know which of the studies they were attacking as illustrated in this Cranky Uncle cartoon:

Ted Cruz - consensus

In 2021, we put together a video summarising the history of the scientific consensus on climate change - both the studies finding consensus and the persistent attempts to cast doubt on consensus:

[youtube id="BPNr9BeMNLk"]

In November 2022, we published a long-overdue explainer about what a scientific consensus actually is. Just to re-iterate the main point: A scientific consensus is not a show-of-hands as it looks like in the cartoon below at first sight! It's more like "Yes, because of the evidence we all agree that humans are causing climate change". The consensus is not evidence of global warming – it evolved over more than 100 years from the evidence.


This month, the basic rebuttal version was updated to - among receiving the “At a glance” section - now include mentions of several more studies examining the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, with all of them finding a strong consensus of at least 97%.

Let’s end with this cartoon, perfectly illustrating what we’ve been up against for the last 10 years:


We are sure that this pattern will continue for the time being!

Posted by John Cook on Monday, 15 May, 2023

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