At least 97% of experts agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. But only 3% of the 3% of climate change deniers are actually qualified in climate science

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Analyses of over 12,000 studies studying the effect of global warming suggest that 97% of the authors endorse the consensus that climate change is real and a result of human activity. But the remaining 3% of studies, whose methodologies and author affiliations are dubious, to say the least, have been greatly amplified by conservative think tanks and other groups with an interest in distorting an otherwise crystal clear scientific picture and polarizing society.

Studies that run counter to the established consensus of anthropogenic global warming serve as ammunition for conservative leaders with an agenda to subvert climate mitigation policies. To the uninformed public, a study being published in a scientific journal must mean that the arguments of the ‘other side’ are worth hearing or can weigh just as much as the consensus. Of course, not all studies are equal. Some are better than others, while some are downright awful and pseudoscientific.

And while appealing to authority is a logical fallacy, one can’t help but point out the findings of a new study published this week by researchers at the Georgia Gwinnett College, USA. Laura Young and Erin Fitz analyzed climate change contrarians from multi-signatory documents and discovered that out of the 3% of scientists who don’t agree on anthropogenic global warming, the overwhelming majority aren’t qualified to assess it.

“As politicians use contrarian arguments as a reason to justify inaction against climate change, it is important not only to understand who these contrarians are, but also to establish what links, if any, they have to organizations and industries that work tirelessly to prevent climate mitigation efforts. Exploring these connections may help explain why these individuals continue to argue against the climate science consensus,” the authors wrote.

Only 3% of the 3% of climate change deniers are actually qualified in climate science or at least some related field. The remaining 97% do not meet expert criteria and are also involved with organizations and industries affiliated with the climate change countermovement. To qualify as a climate expert, the signatory must have “a minimum of 20 climate-related, peer-reviewed publications as the base to establish expertise”.  What’s more, most contrarians are aged 65 or older, an age group that is more prone to entrenching world views.

The names of the individuals whose expertise was analyzed in the present study were drawn from the Bali Open Letter, Manhattan Declaration, Paris Climate Challenge, Lindzen Petition, and Climate Scientists’ Register. These documents serve as an official challenge to the global climate discussion and often target specific global policy initiatives. 

“Almost none of the individuals who signed the documents have a degree directly related to climate science. In fact, less than 1 percent of the individuals in the sample have a degree deemed relevant to climate science, with relevance defined as individuals having a degree in climatology or a similar field. A total of 77 percent of contrarians, however, have a scientific degree that could provide some knowledge related to climatology, for example, physics, geography, or engineering. Just under 23 percent of contrarians have a degree with no direct relation to science, for example, statistics, economics, international relations, and those related to the humanities,” the researchers reported in their study published in the British Journal of Political Science.

Since the 2013 study was released which first reported the “97% expert consensus figure” over anthropogenic climate change, expert consensus may have now climbed to 99%. But despite the near-unanimous consensus, climate change deniers are often given as much exposure in the media, if not more, than legitimate climate scientists.

It is thus important that we place more emphasis “on distinguishing between the consensus among 97 percent of scientists and the rhetoric spread by the 3 percent of contrarians,” the American researchers wrote.

The recently published Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report claims “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”, and warns that the Paris Agreement goals of 1.5℃ and 2℃ above pre-industrial levels will be exceeded during this century without dramatic emissions reductions.

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