About 97 out of every 100 climate scientists regularly publishing in peer-reviewed journals accept scientific evidence that Earth is warming primarily because of human emissions. True or False?
And according to research in 2016, roughly 11 percent of the public understands that about 97 percent of the climate scientists agree on those two points – happening and substantially human-caused. True or False?
(Answers to both questions: True.)
Researchers* in 2014 published a report in an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal, PLOS-ONE, that public understanding of the extent of the agreement among climate scientists is a “gateway belief”: knowing and accepting that level of agreement is key to increasing general understanding of, and willingness to address, human-caused global warming.
“We find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat,” the four researchers wrote in the abstract of that report. “In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action. In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.”
The 97.1 percent agreement meme, and the research that led to its being one of the essential elements of the public policy debate on climate change, are the focus of this month’s Yale Climate Connections “This is Not Cool” video, produced by independent videographer Peter Sinclair.
“This ‘97 percent’ figure has since gone everywhere – triggering debates and discussions around the world,” science writer Chris Mooney wrote in early 2015 in The Washington Post. “It has been celebrated, pilloried, attacked – and most of all, heralded as the key to explaining climate change to the public.”
Pointing to a lack of unanimity on the “gateway belief” finding, Mooney concluded, “So in sum – 97 percent of scientists may agree about climate change, but scientific agreement about how to get people to accept that is significantly lower.”
The Sinclair video this month explores research done in 2004 by science historian Naomi Oreskes, now at Harvard University, and subsequent research in 2013 led by Skeptical Science founder John Cook, now at George Mason University. Mooney described that 2013 research as “probably the most famous study ever conducted about how climate scientists, themselves, think about the subject they examine.”