What Does the 97% Consensus on Man-Made Climate Change Really Mean?
Talking about science is my life. I’ve been doing it long enough to know I’ll regularly face opposition from people whose beliefs don’t jive with the facts, especially considering that issues like evolution, vaccines, and man-made climate change come up quite often in my videos.
I can handle that. And I don’t exclude these voices of disagreement, even if they are wrong or badly misinformed. Instead, I do my best to welcome everyone in, to get people to, even if just for a moment, look at the world from a scientific point of view. The universe looks much better from here, trust me!
On the It’s Okay To Be Smart YouTube channel, I’ve made a couple of videos about climate science. One lays out the basics of climate science, and the other examines why people don’t believe in it. Check ‘em out if you haven’t already:
I don’t know what’s up, but I’ve had climate science deniers descending on my YouTube comment sections like flying monkeys swarming a Kansas girl. These passionately pugnacious people have a list of bad-but-confusingly-complex arguments as long as your arm, but there’s one in particular that I’m super tired of hearing: The claim that the “97% consensus” on climate change is a hoax, or has been debunked. Everyone from presidential candidates to basement bloggers have trotted this one out, and it’s time we put it to rest.
Rest assured, 97% of scientists really do agree that climate change is real and humans are a major cause.
This statement is true. And I’m going to tell you why it’s true, but first you have to promise not to just say “Nuh uh! No it isn’t!!!” because if you’re going to start off by declaring that up is down or salt is sugar, we’re not going to get very far and someone’s gonna leave with a bad taste in their mouth. To see eye to eye with people who disagree with us, we have to agree to live in the same non-imaginary universe.
Cook’s is the latest of multiple studies between 2004 to 2016 looking at the level of agreement that humans are causing recent global warming and broader climate change. Using a variety of methods, these many studies have shown consensus between 90-100%, and they have shown it consistently. A consensus on consensus!
What Cook did was look at the abstracts of climate science papers (the abstract is a sort of short introductory summary of a paper and its findings) and use that abstract to gauge whether the scientist who wrote it supports the idea that humans are causing climate change. They did this with thousands of papers written by thousands of scientists from around the world published over more than a decade. Cook and his team then went a step farther and actually surveyed the scientists themselves to make sure they were capturing true opinions and not just misreading abstracts.
When you look at the scientific research, the sum total of papers that express a position on what or who is causing climate change, 97.1% of them agree that it’s humans. Just 1.9% reject the idea that humans are causing it, and 1% are uncertain.
Very talented climate deniers will point to that and say “Ok, that’s fine, but the consensus goes way down when you include papers that don’t take a position on the cause of climate change!” These people want you to believe that a paper that doesn’t specifically mention a cause for climate change by default disagrees with humans causing it.
What that really means is that the consensus is so strong, and it has been that way for so long, that most climate scientists don’t bother writing it in every paper they write. I mean, imagine if every biology paper had to say “DNA, which we strongly believe is the information molecule responsible for genetic inheritance…” or if physicists had to constantly repeat “We believe that gravity is a warping of space and time due to massive objects…”
I agree. It is ridiculous. The scientific community is certain enough that humans are causing climate change that they don’t even bother reminding each other of it anymore.
I wish we didn’t have to remind each other either. Maybe then we’d be further along in reversing it and adapting to our changing world?
What’s most interesting is Cook found that the more climate-specific expertise a scientist had, the more likely they were to support the consensus. Essentially, people who know the most about Earth’s climate agree even more that we’re behind recent warming.
If you still find yourself disagreeing with scientists and doubting humanity’s role in climate change, that’s your choice. I think it’s a bad choice, and there’s a LOT of evidence to back me up, but you’re free to believe that.
You’re just going to have to stop using the 97% argument as a reason.
In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, a partnership of 31 leading nonpartisan scientific societies today reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions “must be substantially reduced” to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health.
“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver,” the collaborative said in its 28 June letter to Members of Congress. “This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”
Climate-change impacts in the United States have already included increased threats of extreme weather events, sea-level rise, water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and disturbances to ecosystems and animals, the intersociety group reported. “The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades,” the letter added. It cited the scientific consensus of the vast majority of individual climate scientists and virtually every leading scientific organization in the world, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S. National Academies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the American Statistical Association, the Ecological Society of America, and the Geological Society of America.
“To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced,” the group said, adding that adaptation is also necessary to “address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others.”
[…] The 28 June letter was signed by leaders of the following organizations:
American Association for the Advancement of Science American Chemical Society American Geophysical Union American Institute of Biological Sciences American Meteorological Society American Public Health Association American Society of Agronomy American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists American Society of Naturalists American Society of Plant Biologists American Statistical Association Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Association of Ecosystem Research Centers BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium Botanical Society of America Consortium for Ocean Leadership Crop Science Society of America Ecological Society of America Entomological Society of America Geological Society of America National Association of Marine Laboratories Natural Science Collections Alliance Organization of Biological Field Stations Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Society for Mathematical Biology Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Society of Nematologists Society of Systematic Biologists Soil Science Society of America University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Fossil fuels are holding on, but end of their reign is nigh, says a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which predicts that wind and solar will be cheaper than coal and gas generators by 2027, and electric vehicles could make up 25 percent of the global car fleet by 2040.
The peak year for coal, gas, and oil looks to be 2025, and then it’s all downhill from there. For big oil guys, at least. “You can’t fight the future,” says lead researcher, Seb Henbest. “The economics are increasingly locked in.”
Released on Monday, Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook report has found that US$11.4 trillion will be invested in new energy sources over the next 25 years, and two thirds of that will go towards renewables, particularly wind and solar.
It’s tempting to breathe a sigh of relief that discussion has finally moved on from, “is climate change happening?” to “what should we do about it?”
Unfortunately, the new brand of climate denial is far more worrying. Though climate policy is finally on its way, the tough decisions we need to catch up to the science aren’t being made.
For all the sunny rhetoric surrounding the Paris agreement and a new Canadian climate plan, our federal government is still pretending dirty fossil fuels have a future in a world where we meet our climate goals. They push for LNG terminals and tar sands pipelines as if these projects won’t propel us to a climate disaster.
Scientists tell us we must abandon fossil fuels as fast as possible to have any hope for a safe climate. Building new fossil fuel infrastructure in a climate crisis is like digging the hole we’re in – even deeper.
Our leaders perform verbal acrobatics to justify the continued expansion of the tar sands and the creation of a brand new polluting LNG industry. They fall over themselves to promote pipelines while paying lip service to renewable energy. At least the last government was unapologetic about its vision for a fossil fuel future.
If we had started tackling climate change 20 years ago when Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA at the time, brought global awareness to climate change maybe we would have time to gradually ease our economy into a low-carbon future.
However, Dr. Hansen tells us we have no more time to waste. He says we need to reduce global emissions by at least six per cent a year to avert climate catastrophe. Canada must lead the way by being as ambitious and responsible as possible. By definition that is outside the realm of business as usual.
The proposed Pacific Northwest LNG terminal at Lelu Island in British Columbia would have a bigger carbon footprint than all the vehicles, buildings and garbage disposal in one of Canada’s major urban centres – Metro Vancouver. That’s without even counting emissions when that gas is burned.
Oil from Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline would emit carbon pollution equal to 13 per cent of our nation’s total emissions. Building more pipelines to expand the tar sands ignores the reality that Alberta’s dirty oil production must be “negligible” after 2020 for the world to meet its climate goals.
Donald Trump is about to become the Republican nominee for president, a man who has described climate change as a concept “created by and for the Chinese” and “bullshit.” Meanwhile, the United Nations released research Tuesday which indicates said “bullshit” could interfere with productivity, costing the world $2 trillion over the next 14 years.
A new hypothesis on the extinction of dinosaurs and ammonites at the end of the Cretaceous Period has been proposed by a research team from Tohoku University and the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute.
The researchers believe that massive amounts of stratospheric soot ejected from rocks following the famous Chicxulub asteroid impact, caused global cooling, drought and limited cessation of photosynthesis in oceans. This, they say, could have been the process that led to the mass extinction of dinosaurs and ammonites.
The asteroid, also known as the Chicxulub impactor, hit Earth some 66 million years ago, causing a crater more than 180 km wide. It’s long been believed that that event triggered the mass extinction that led to the macroevolution of mammals and the appearance of humans.
The phytoplankton were absorbing sunlight in the shallowest layers
of the ocean, heating the water, and accelerating the melting of sea
ice which improved conditions for more phytoplankton to flourish. The
effect of this enormous feedback loop increases warming in the Arctic by
20%, and remains unaccounted for in the majority of climate models used
around the world. Both scientists were stunned…
The fires that scorched swaths of Fort McMurray, Alberta, exacerbated by conditions linked to climate change, hinted at what’s in store for Canada in years to come as the effects of climate change continue to worsen, provoking more extreme weather events.
We’re not ready for what’s coming, according to an audit released by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on Tuesday, which examined federal support for mitigating the effects of extreme weather events. The results weren’t great.
Ottawa spent more money recovering from natural disasters in the last six fiscal years than in the previous 39 combined, according to the report. Despite this, “the federal government [has] not done enough to help mitigate the anticipated impacts of severe weather events,” the report concludes.
Particularly unsettling are revelations that the government’s flood hazard assessment guidelines (developers perform hazard assessments to decide where to build) haven’t been updated since 1996—a full 20 years ago—and the National Building Code doesn’t currently account for severe weather brought on by climate change.
“Homes and other buildings built to withstand our current climate may not be strong enough to withstand climates in the decades to come,” the report states. “This could have possible safety repercussions.”