One still hears reference to “the debate on global warming”. Is there really a debate? Certainly, there are people who want to think there is, especially those with a vested interest in not doing anything about it.
Back in 2013, President Obama famously tweeted that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is real, man-made and dangerous. That number has become something of a meme. One always hears about the 97% consensus.
But where does that number come from and is it accurate?
Without a doubt, any climate scientist today must have an opinion on global warming. So, do 97% hold the view that it is happening, and that people are responsible? If that is accurate, then 3% must disagree. Is that true? If 3% of climate scientists don’t think we are changing the climate, that would actually be quite significant. Sometimes rather small scientific minorities turn out to be right.
However, it turns out that the 97% number is actually false. It comes from a 2013 article surveying the scientific literature about climate change. 97% of the papers expressing an opinion on global warming endorsed the consensus opinion. As for the scientists themselves, the percentage of publishing climate scientists who support the view that people are changing the climate is at least 99.9% and may actually verge on unanimity.
A more recent survey of the scientific literature that looked at over 24,000 articles found that only five of them explicitly reject human-caused climate change. Two of them had the same author, so only 4 scientists out of nearly 70,000 authors espouse the contrarian view. Those four are members of an elite club primarily composed of fossil fuel industry people and the politicians they bankroll.
Photo, posted August 27, 2017, courtesy of the Texas Military Department via Flickr.