Scientists agree on a warming Earth
08 June 2013 Issue No:275
University World News
Researchers in America, Australia, Britain and Canada found an overwhelming consensus among scientists regarding human-induced global warming after examining the abstracts of 12,000 papers dealing with climate from 1991 to 2011. They say the number of papers rejecting the consensus was a “vanishingly small proportion”.
The researchers say the study was not only the largest peer-reviewed investigation of the topic undertaken but that the extent of scientific consensus regarding human responsibility for a warming Earth was overwhelming.
In fact, 97% of the scientific community “endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”, the researchers write in a paper published in Environmental Research Letters.
“An accurate perception of the degree of scientific consensus is an essential element to public support for climate policy,” they say. “Communicating the scientific consensus also increases people’s acceptance that climate change is happening.
“[But] despite numerous indicators of a consensus, there is wide public perception that climate scientists disagree over the fundamental cause of global warming.”
In America, public opinion polls in the decade to 2007 consistently indicated that around 60% of the US public believed there was significant disagreement among scientists about whether global warming existed.
Similarly, 57% of the public either disputed or were unaware that the vast majority of scientists accepted that the Earth was very likely warming because of human activity.
The researchers say that contributing to this ‘consensus gap’ are campaigns designed to confuse the public about the level of agreement among climate scientists. A key strategy involved constructing the impression of active scientific debate using dissenting scientists as spokespeople.
The situation is also exacerbated by media treatment of the climate issue, “where the normative practice of providing opposing sides with equal attention has allowed a vocal minority to have their views amplified.