May 16, 2013 3:39 pm
There’s an interesting relationship, borne out in polling numbers, between the “general public’s” belief in global climate change and the weather. When it’s hot out, people believe in climate change. When it’s cold, they don’t. When summer heat and drought and wildfires tore through the U.S. last summer, 74 percent of Americans believed that climate change was affecting the weather. Only 46 percent of Americans think that this climate change is caused by human activities – most directly the burning of fossil fuels.
The numbers are a little different when it is climate scientists, and the scientific research conducted on climate change, that are polled.
Writing in the Guardian, Dana Nuccitelli and John Abraham describe a new study that polled the recent research to see what scientists thought of climate change. (Nuccitelli is one of the voices behind the website Skeptical Science and one of the authors of the new scientific study.) They found that the vast, overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that humans are causing climate change.
The team searched a database of scientific studies for the words “global climate change” or “global warming.” They found 11,944 relevant studies published between 1991 and 2012. Then, they read through the study’s summaries to figure out whether the study supported, rejected, was uncertain about or said nothing at all about our role in causing climate change. They also asked the scientists behind the papers whether their research supported or refuted the idea of man-made global warming.
Of the studies that expressed some sort of position on global warming, of which there were 4,000, the team write in their paper, “97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.” When the climate scientists themselves said whether or not their work supported the idea of anthropogenic climate change, “97.2% endorsed the consensus.”
For the papers that didn’t seem to have an opinion on whether humans were causing climate change, the reason, they write, is not that the scientists don’t know. Rather, it’s that the debate is so fully and completely settled within the scientific community that they aren’t going to use space re-hashing old fights.
Some people may mention that the scientific community is conflicted over the cause of climate change. This new survey would like to remind that that is not true.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.