The scientific consensus that humans are altering the climate has exceeded 99.9%, according to research reinforcing the case for global action at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
The degree of scientific certainty about the impact of greenhouse gases is now similar to the level of agreement on evolution and plate tectonics, say the authors, based on a survey of nearly 90,000 climate-related studies. This means that there is practically no doubt among experts that the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, coal, peat and trees, is heating the planet and causing a more extreme climate.
An earlier survey in 2013 showed that 97% of studies published between 1991 and 2012 supported the idea that human activities are altering the Earth’s climate.
This has been updated and expanded by the study by Cornell University showing that the small minority of skeptical voices has dwindled to next to nothing as evidence of the link between burning fossil fuels and altering the climate grows.
The latest peer-reviewed literature survey published from 2012 to November 2020 was conducted in two stages. First, the researchers examined a random sample of 3,000 studies, in which they found only four articles that were skeptical that the climate crisis was caused by humans. Second, they searched the entire database of 88,125 studies for keywords linked to climate skepticism, such as “natural cycles” and “cosmic rays,” which yielded 28 articles, all published in secondary journals.
The authors said their study, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, showed that skepticism among experts is now very small.
“It is a really closed case. There is no one of importance in the scientific community who doubts human-caused climate change, ”said lead author Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at Cornell University.
This echoed the opinion expressed in August by the world’s leading scientific body, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and the earth”.
The general public still does not understand what certain experts are like, nor is it reflected in the political debate. This is especially true in the US, where fossil fuel companies have funded a disinformation campaign that falsely suggests that the science is not yet resolved, similar to the campaign by the tobacco industries to cast doubt on the link between the smoking and cancer.
The paper cites a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center that found that only 27% of American adults believed that “almost all” scientists agreed that the climate emergency was caused by human activity.
Many senior Republicans continue to question the link between human activity and the climate crisis, as market researchers have advised them to do so since at least the presidency of George W. Bush. According to the Center for American Progress, 30 US senators and 109 representatives “refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.” Several large social media and media organizations also promote skeptical views on climate that have little to no scientific basis.
Lynas said the study should encourage them to review their policies. “This puts people like Facebook and Twitter in a quandary. It is quite similar to misinformation about vaccines; Both lack a scientific basis and both have a destructive impact on society. Social networks that allow misinformation about the weather to spread must either analyze their algorithms and policies or be forced to do so by regulators. “
Some commentators have questioned the importance of a scientific consensus, saying it is a distraction from more pressing concerns. However, they say it is important for media organizations to avoid giving a false sense of balance by giving equal weight and coverage to the arguments for and against. More importantly, consensus is seen as vital to a concerted international response to the climate crisis.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism