Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote for the magazine Corporate Knights, that was published on May 14, 2015. Some references and links have been added at the end. This is cross-posted with Skeptical Science.
In 2004, science historian Naomi Oreskes published a short paper in the journal Science concluding there was an overwhelming consensus in the scientific literature that global warming was caused by humans.
After the paper’s release, there was some unexpectedly hostile reaction. This prompted Oreskes and her colleague Erik Conway to go even deeper with their research, leading to the publication of the book Merchants of Doubt. It documents how a small group of scientists with links to industry were able to sow doubt about the scientific consensus and delay effective policy on DDT, tobacco, acid rain and, now, global warming.
Fast forward to two years ago: a team of volunteer researchers (myself included) associated with the website Skeptical Science decide to update and extend Oreskes’ research. Led by University of Queensland researcher John Cook, we analyzed the abstracts of about 12,000 scientific papers extracted from a large database of articles, using the search terms “global warming” and “global climate change.” The articles had been published over a 21-year period, from 1991 to 2011.
As an independent check on our results, we also sent emails to the more than 8,500 scientist authors of these articles. (These were the scientists whose e-mail addresses we were able to track down). We asked them to rate their own papers for endorsement or rejection of man-made global warming.
Both approaches yielded a very similar result: 97 per cent of the scientific literature that expresses an opinion on climate change endorses the expert consensus view that it is man-made. The results were published in May 2013 in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
We were astonished by the positive reception. Mention of the paper was tweeted by U.S. President Barack Obama, Al Gore and Elon Musk, among others. Obama later referenced it in a speech at the University of Queensland, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to the 97 per cent consensus in recent speeches. John Oliver based an episode of his HBO comedy show Last Week Tonight around it, a clip viewed online more than five million times.
The paper has been also been downloaded over 300,000 times – so far – which makes it a blockbuster for a science paper. ….
[Snipped sections concern Richard Tol’s criticisms of Cook et al. and Tol’s history of public disputes along with discussions of the “consensus gap” and scientific consensus as a “gateway belief”.]
…. Climate contrarians everywhere protest there is no scientific consensus. If that were true, they should easily be able to show there is indeed a significant body of work that challenges mainstream science. Yet they haven’t and can’t, because a robust and coherent denial of man-made global warming does not exist.
Our study describes the state of expert opinion, it does not define scientific truth nor does it tell people what to think. Climate scientists today overwhelmingly endorse the consensus view that humans are the cause of most of recent global warming. That’s a fact.
If the goal is to sell doubt and delay action on climate, it’s a fact that has to be denied.
Click here to read the full article at Corporate Knights
References and links
Publications like Corporate Knights limit the number of hyperlinks in their articles. Here are some references and links that bolster the arguments I made.