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The Scientist's Consensus on Global Warming

Every major scientific society in the world has adopted a statement like that of the American Chemical Society which says,

Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s  climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing  aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.”

This urgent message continues to be mainly ignored by the public and our politicians. This seems strange as scientist’s trustworthiness is  highly rated by the public, with 84% having a favorable view of scientists. A recent CNN  poll  found that 97% of scientists who are actively engaged in research in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and the primary cause is man’s activities. The strongest consensus comes from the scientists who publish articles on climate science.  A recent peer-reviewed article   in the proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that 97-98% of the scientists agree with the consensus opinion with the strongest agreement coming from those who publish the most in the climate science area. A number of surveys have been taken of different group of scientists with the results shown below:




There is clearly a  consensus among scientists on global warming,  but the public’s opinion  continues to be divided about what scientists think. On the question of whether scientists agree that the earth is warming mostly because of human activity; 45% say scientists agree while 43% say they do not. That is because the 3% of the climate scientists who do not agree with the scientific consensus  receive an inordinately large amount of publicity.  Efforts to  discredit the climate scientist’s consensus usually involve quoting scientists who doubt the opinion of the 97%, then  claiming that destroys the whole consensus. However, those  scientists likely started out in the 3% who doubted the consensus to begin with.

Disagreements in science are usually settled by the evidence. To see what the consensus actually is, you just have to look at the peer-reviewed literature.  James Powell examined the scientific consensus in terms of the number of published articles either agreeing or disagreeing with the consensus. His search of peer-reviewed scientific articles published between January, 1991 and November, 2012 with the keywords “global warming” or “global climate change” produced 13,950 articles. He classified as “rejecting” articles that clearly and explicitly stated that the theory of global warming is false or that some other process better explains the observed warming. Only 24 articles,or 0.17%, rejected the consensus, as represented by the thin red line on the pie chart below.





Of the 24  articles  that rejected the consensus opinion, several  were published by gaming the peer review system. An analysis by John Mashey showed fourteen articles rejecting the consensus opinion were published in Climate Research while Chris de Freitas,  a biased climate change Skeptic, was the editor. Most of the articles claiming the Earth is not warming or that man does not have a major role have been found to have errors or have  been disproven by later research.

Note added on 06/11/2013: A recent paper in the Environmental Science Newsletter in May  found that 97% of the climate scientists support the consensus opinion.
Note added on 07/15/2015: James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in 2013 and 2014. Only five reject the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause, with four of those papers using arguments which had been debunked. Powell found the consensus is now “99.9% plus.”

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

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