Do 97% of climate change scientists believe in climate change?

While a 97% agreement rate amongst climate change scientists appears to be a very nice figure and reliable enough to base discussion of the future on, it seemed odd to me that 3% of the scientists disagreed. As such in this article I’m going to look at the study that was done which created this figure. I will also look at another study that was done more recently which suggests a far higher figure.

The 97% figure was arrived at in a study which was done by a scientist called Cook. He analysed peer reviewed scientific papers submitted between 1991 and 2011. This study looked at a total of over 11,000 papers. Of these 4013 looked at climate change, and 3894 were in agreement that humans had caused the climate change that have been shown. As you can see in this study many of the articles had nothing to do with climate change, and while 4013 is a good number of climate papers to look at there were many more that were not looked at during this period.

In 2017 a man named James Powell set out to complete the same review. He looked at papers that was submitted between 1991 and 2015. During this time he found 54,195 papers that were dealing with the climate change. He found that of the 54,195 papers that he looked at, 99.94% agreed that humans were causing climate change. Furthermore this study was even more decisive when looking at paper released in the years to 2013 or 2014, when the percentage of papers that agreed humans are causing climate change was 99.99%.

I am quite sure that when Cook finished his paper which quoted a figure of 97% support for human caused climate change amongst scientists, he did not think that this remaining 3% would be grabbed by climate sceptics as a clear indication that for some reason 3% of scientists disagreeing means that the 97% must be wrong. John Oliver demonstrated the absurdity that is shown when serious channels host a climate change debate, where they include one person arguing for climate change and one person against. In his representative debate, he had 97 scientists arguing for climate change with three against. As would be obvious this was a very funny, if extremely poignant, demonstration of the absurdity of treating these two ideas as being equally valid and supported in modern day times.

Furthermore, as Powell’s larger study has since been done which shows our agreement rate of over 99.9%, or indeed in the last few years and agreement rate of 99.99%, the debate is over. We are unlikely to ever reach a 100% agreement rate, particularly as there are interest groups who have commissioned their own papers which were so blatantly biased in their thinking that these really should not be counted amongst a study like this. One most notable and well-known example of this is Shell which it has recently been shown had scientists who were fully understanding the human impact of climate change back in the 80s. Indeed in recent times they have been challenged over this, and there is talk of suing them over there intentional lack of transparency.


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