three scientists having a discussion

For every ten scientists who are bold enough to present evidence regarding climate change, there are also a significant number who disagree altogether or only seem to form a “consensus” of thought. In the late 2000s, a series of leaked emails seemed to prove what many had been shouting from the rooftops for years – climate change is all a hoax. However, a few scientists held to their positions: climate change is a real fact, and one that can be detrimental to the way we live if no efforts are made to curtail the human influence on climate change.

Today, there is still a wide berth in the way Americans feel about climate change. There is a group who understands that without major lifestyle changes, the earth as we know it will cease to be. There is also a group that flagrantly disregards any suggestion of the effects of climate change. A third group isn’t quite sure who or what to believe. However, the fact that there is a group that fails to believe scientists have a common consensus regarding climate change is the biggest opponent to making any type of positive movement when it comes to combating disbelief in climate change.

A recent survey shows that more scientists that previously thought may actually be in agreement regarding global warming, climate change, and how people can work to combat these issues.

Many scientists and disbelievers alike have written important papers and newspaper columns arguing on either side of climate change. A prominent scientist wrote a “consensus” paper which compiled information from nearly 1,000 papers on the topic. Soon after, however, the hacked emails of scientists caused many to discount anything relevant in the historian Naomi Oreskes’ broad “consensus” paper. Shortly after the emails surfaced, the Wall Street Journal published a skeptic’s letter titled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” Several commentaries followed the publication of said letter; notably, Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus gave a vigorous rebuttal to the letter.

Even so, other skeptics continued to publish letters and editorials along the WSJ letter. All these publications served to fuel continued disbelief in climate change.

Recently, a new study carried out by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Minnesota pointed out that consensus among scientists, particularly where climate change is concerned, may be more important than one individual’s position on the topic.

The problem lies in this: most climate scientists agree when polled individually about certain areas of climate change; however, they tend to believe their colleagues feel the same way.

1. Most scientists polled stated that they believe human activity is the leading cause of global warming and an increase in the temperatures of the ocean within the last 250 years.

While 90 percent of scientists all agreed with this statement, when asked how many of their colleagues felt the same, the respondents say they believed on 80 percent of their contemporaries believed human activity has caused the changes.

2. Thirty percent of participants said they believed, without government intervention, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air would exceed 550 parts per million between the years 2050 and 2059. When these respondents were asked how many of their colleagues shared this idea, they felt only twenty percent did.

3. A question asked about atmospheric carbon dioxide and the increase in the earth’s temperature increase as a result. Over 40 percent of respondents agreed with this point, but felt under thirty percent of their fellow scientists held the same viewpoint.

Other questions posed by this survey dealt with the increase in hurricanes, an increase in the sea level as glaciers melt, and the need for more government policy to help decrease the likelihood of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Again and again, large numbers of participants agreed on these issues; however, they felt that many of their colleagues did not share the same opinions.

As a result, a doctoral candidate created a poll that would measure both the ideas climate scientists held as well as questions asking how these participants felt their colleagues would vote on the same idea. One finding was that the questions were often confusing to the participants, and that some scientists were predisposed to assume disagreements existed regarding the consensus among scientists.