Scientific Consensus and Global Warming

tin_foil_hatSome of the most bizarre debates I have with people are not about religion, or even creationism, but of all things, global warming!  Although I must confess that most of the global warming deniers I debate are also highly religious creationists (speaks to the general lack of critical thinking that goes with the territory).

In one recent twitter argument, the global warming deniers accused me of defending global warming without proof, to which I responded that I have the overwhelming consensus of the entire scientific community on my side. On their side they have Fox News, right wing talk radio, and Glenn Beck (and in fairness, I very small handful of scientific contrarians).

Losing patience with their willful ignorance, I asked my debaters to name a single scientific body of national or international standing that does not endorse the consensus on anthropogenic global warming.

To which they responded with the Fraser Institute, Slovakia’s president Vaclav Klaus, and something called Weather Canada.

Clearly these people have no idea what constitutes a national or international scientific body, so allow me a few moments to document my position more succinctly and hopefully the term “scientific consensus” will begin to make more sense.

Let’s start with general science, physics, and chemistry.

American Association for the Advancement of Science: “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society….The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years.”

American Geophysical Union: “The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system—including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons—are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century.”

American Chemical Society: “Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosol particles.”

American Institute of Physics: “The Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics has endorsed a position statement on climate change adopted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Council:”

Now what about scientific organizations in Europe?

The European Physical Society: “The emission of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, among which carbon dioxide is the main contributor, has amplified the natural greenhouse effect and led to global warming.

European Science Foundation: There is now convincing evidence that since the industrial revolution, human activities, resulting in increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases have become a major agent of climate change.”

What about folks down under?

Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies: “Global climate change is real and measurable. Since the start of the 20th century, the global mean surface temperature of the Earth has increased by more than 0.7°C and the rate of warming has been largest in the last 30 years.”

How about the people who just last year launched a 1-ton mobile laboratory on a 352 million mile journey only to top it off by flawlessly landing it via a jet-propelled sky crane with pin point accuracy? You may know them as:

NASA:  “The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane to higher levels than at any point during the last 650,000 years. Scientists agree it is very likely that most of the global average warming since the mid-20th century is due to the human-induced increases in greenhouse gases, rather than to natural causes.”

How about meteorologists and oceanographers?

American Meteorological Society: “Human activities have become a major source of environmental change. Of great urgency are the climate consequences of the increasing atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases.”

Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society: “Global climate change and global warming are real and observable … It is highly likely that those human activities that have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been largely responsible for the observed warming since 1950.”

And finally, what about our friends in Paleoclimatology?

American Quaternary Association: “Few credible Scientists now doubt that humans have influenced the documented rise of global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution,” citing “the growing body of evidence that warming of the atmosphere, especially over the past 50 years, is directly impacted by human activity.”

Each of these organizations are comprised of hundreds if not thousands of leaders in each their respective fields; men and women who have spent decades refining their expertise through constant study, experimentation, and analysis.  These are people who publish their findings as often as practicable, just so that their counterparts can tear it down if at all possible.  These are scientists.

That is what we mean when we say the scientific consensus is clear.

About Ryan

Ryan is a science advocate, history fan, amateur polemicist, consultant, and soccer player, dreaming of being a writer. His first book project is about critical thinking. He blogs regularly about debt and personal finance at He is available for writing projects on a number of subjects. Contact him at dadindebtblog at gmail dot com.
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4 Responses to Scientific Consensus and Global Warming

  1. Steve Morris says:

    I agree, but I also think there is a problem of exaggeration and confusion on the side of some global warming advocates.

    For example, my kids are taught at school that the Earth’s temperature has increased by 4 degrees in the past century. In reality, the actual increase is about 0.5 degrees. You could reasonably argue that this is negligible and comparable with measurement error.

    And I frequently read reports that global warming is already causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, which is patent nonsense.

    So there is plenty of misinformation on both sides, although I’m not saying that the respectable sources you cite above are involved in this. The trouble is that inaccurate reporting of global warming plays into the hands of denialists.

  2. Its like you read my mind!
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    you wrote the e-book in it
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    that is excellent blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

  3. Greg D says:

    I encourage you to look up “Argumentum ad populum”. It’s funny. The very argument you are using in support of global warming is the very argument that theists use to justify their belief in God. Perhaps you are not as logical and objective as you may think.

    • Greg – that’s potentially a very good point. The fundamental difference here however is that in the argumentum ad populum or the argumentum ad numerum fallacy, the veracity of the claim is in the numbers themselves (i.e., lots of people believe it, therefor it must be true); the veracity of the claim that global warming is real, rests on empirical, measurable, science. The number of people who believe it is irrelevant to the fact of its occurrence. It just so happens that scientifically literate people also occasionally form a “populum.” Hope that helps :-)

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