Consensus in Climate Change Science

Posted on June 4, 2010

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In 2004, Dr. Naomi Oreskes of UC San Diego researched the issue of “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.”  Her question, in light of ongoing doubts by the media and politicians, was whether such a consensus actually existed among scientists.  Her method was to go the actual scientific literature itself and see.

She began by doing a computer search of peer-reviewed scientific journals using the keywords “global climate change”, and found 928 papers which had been published between 1993 and 2003.  She then analyzed the abstracts of the papers and broke them down into six categories:

  1. explicit endorsement of the consensus position
  2. evaluation of impacts
  3. mitigation proposals
  4. methods
  5. paleoclimate analysis
  6. rejection of the consensus position

She found that 75% of the papers fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view on climate change.   25% of the papers dealt with categories four and five, methods and paleoclimate, and took no position one way or the other on what was happening to the climate today.  Not one scientific study out of the entire 928 fit into category six, “rejection of the consensus position”.

Professor Oreskes paper has been attacked numerous times by the professional climate change denial industry, but all the attacks have failed.  Now the deniers would simply prefer that her paper did not exist.  It is–for professional deniers and those industries which fund the deniers–another “inconvenient truth”.

So, is there a consensus in the science of global climate change?  Yes.  Without a doubt.  Only liars and the egregiously misinformed will tell you otherwise.

If we had that kind of consensus in the politics of climate change, the world would have begun acting decisively on this issue long ago.

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Find Naomi Oreskes paper at:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/306/5702/1686.pdf