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editorial

Scientific consensus


August 30, 2012

From a political point of view, one of the things that makes it hardest to do anything about climate change and its impacts is the fact that a substantial portion of the general populace refuses to believe the scientific consensus that such a thing is happening. Others concede it is happening, but refuse to believe the scientific consensus that it is related to human activity, especially carbon emissions. This refusal is a boon to the major multinational corporations who benefit from the status quo, like the heavily taxpayer-subsidized fossil fuel industries. And to the extent that it’s comforting to believe that there’s nothing wrong, or that even if there is, it is not related to our own behavior, the general populace is very much inclined to succumb to the propaganda promulgated by these corporate interests.

But whether or not one agrees with the scientific consensus on climate change, one thing is clear: such a consensus exists, and the mention of one or two names of the few that disagree does not invalidate that fact. A number of studies have been done examining peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate, and all conclude the same thing: more than 95% of scientists actively engaged in climate science agree that the planet overall is growing markedly warmer; and that this change is related, among other things, to the sharp increase in C02 emissions by the human race since the start of the industrial age.

An excellent review of the studies done, some of the criticisms that climate change skeptics have leveled against those studies, and rebuttals of those skeptical arguments, can be found at www.skepticalscience.com. It discusses, for instance, the 2004 Oreskes study, a survey of all peer-reviewed abstracts on global climate change published between 1993 and 2003, which concluded that not one paper rejected the position that global warming is human caused. Seventy-five percent of the papers agreed with that position, while 25% made no comment either way.

Climate skeptic Benny Peiser, a principal critic of this study, originally claimed that he had reviewed the same studies and found 34 that did reject anthropogenic global warming (AGW). But he later printed the following retraction: “Only [a] few abstracts explicitly reject or doubt the AGW consensus… I do not think anyone is questioning that we are in a period of global warming. Neither do I doubt that the overwhelming majority of climatologists is agreed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact.”