The scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is overwhelming. A recent study published this week in Environmental Research Letters has confirmed this consensus once again, finding the level of agreement to exceed “99% in the peer reviewed scientific literature.” This means that, in climate-focused scientific research which has undergone the process of peer review, one of the core methods that the scientific community uses to vet and verify research, over 99% of studies and papers agree on the topic and existence of “human-caused contemporary climate change.”
The study was conducted by researchers from Cornell University and the Alliance for Science (also based in Ithaca, New York). In what is somewhat rare in the world of research, the study is open access and freely available. It is also straightforward to read. The authors explain their methodology of collecting over 88,000 climate related papers and choosing a randomized set of 3,000 of these to perform their analysis on.
One result that might seem odd is that the majority of papers expressed no position on climate change. All of the papers are climate related, but when getting into the weeds about very niche science in the environment and climate, the broader subject of global climate change is not always relevant to the discussion. Among those in the randomized sample set that did indicate a position on human-caused climate change (whether explicitly or implicitly), the researchers found 892 papers which endorsed the concept and just 4 that rejected it.
(Scientific consensus was at least as high as 97% three years ago)
In concise fashion, the authors conclude that “there is no significant scientific debate among experts about whether or not climate change is human-caused.” While this finding has been shown before, it is still important research to replicate, especially given that only 55% of Americans believe “most scientists think global warming is happening.” As the climate crisis continues to grow more threatening and global action continues to be discussed at world summits such as the upcoming COP26, the people of the world should be aware of where our collective scientific understanding stands. It is only with such an informed understanding that constituents can fully participate in our democratic systems and inform their representatives how important climate action is. Research like this helps to straightforwardly communicate science to the broader public and is invaluable in our ongoing understanding of and grappling with the climate crisis.