Eco-Living Magazine

Do Scientists Know for Certain That Humans Are Causing Climate Change?

Posted on the 27 October 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Do Scientists Know for Certain that Humans are Causing Climate Change?It’s no secret that global warming has become a highly politicized talking point in the U.S. If you’ve been paying attention to the GOP presidential debates or even just public sentiment, you probably have noticed that some people believe the science pointing to humans as a cause for global warming has been corrupted by political ideology. Without getting too much into politics, it should be pointed out that such a view is “unfalsifiable.” That is, if scientific studies support their position (i.e. we are not contributing to climate change), then the studies are perceived as being accurate; but, if other studies support human-caused climate change, they are seen as biased or flawed. The point is, no matter the results of a study, some people’s position cannot be proved false.

The same argument could be made for those holding the opposite view (that humans significantly contribute to climate change). The big difference, as pointed out in the 2010 study, Expert Credibility in Climate Change, is that the vast majority of climate experts support one position — that we are a significant source of climate change. In their study, unconvinced scientists comprised only 2 percent of the top 50 climate researchers (as determined by number of peer-reviewed publications), 3 percent of the top 100, and 2.5 percent of the top 200. Furthermore, unconvinced scientists were found to have published half or fewer publications than convinced scientists for both the average (60 vs 119) and median (34 vs 84). An even larger difference was found when looking at the number of peer-reviewed publications of the top 50 scientists of each group. The authors of the study suggest these results show that the number and relative expertise of unconvinced climate researchers is substantially lower than that of convinced researchers.

While this does not prove with absolute certainty that we are a cause of climate change (nothing will), it does show that the data overwhelmingly support this position. Nevertheless, public opinion as to whether there is solid evidence supporting this notion has dropped significantly. In a 2010 Pew Research poll, the percentage of people who believe human activity contributes to climate change has dropped from 79 percent in 2006 to 59 percent in 2010. As you might expect, the number of people who do not believe the earth is warming has risen from 17 percent to 32 percent over the same time period. Though you could make the case that Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which was released two months before the 2006 poll, swayed public opinion, this just goes to show the power the media has over our perception of objective research.

Image by Kevin Dooley

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