8 May 2013

Embargo: 9:05am (EST), Thursday, 16 May 2013

More than 97 per cent of 4000 international scientific papers analysed in a University of Queensland-led study were rated as endorsing human-caused global warming.

UQ Global Change Institute lead author John Cook said the finding proved there was strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary.

“This is significant because when people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they’re more likely to support policies that take action on it,” Mr Cook said.

“For example, if 97 per cent of doctors told you that you had smoking-induced cancer, you’d take action: quit smoking and start chemotherapy to get rid of the cancer.”

A 2012 poll from the US Pew Research Centre found less than half of Americans thought scientists agreed humans were causing global warming.

“There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception,” Mr Cook said.

“Making the results of our paper more widely-known is an important step towards closing the consensus gap and increasing public support for meaningful climate action.”

The study was published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The study involved 24 scientists and science enthusiasts in rating the 4000 abstracts that stated a position on climate change.

The papers were also self-rated by the paper authors for validity.

Both approaches found the same result – that 97 per cent of the 4000 abstracts endorsed human-caused global warming.

The study looked at a much bigger number of papers: they examined 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. The 4000 papers stated a position on whether humans were causing climate change, but almost 8000 other papers worked on the basis that climate change was a “given”.

“The debate has moved on – the ‘acceptance’ of human-induced climate change is so widespread in scientific circles that many scientists don’t even bother to reiterate this fact,” said Cook

“Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on human caused climate change is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.”

The 24 volunteers were recruited through the myth-busting website Skepticalscience.com, founded by Mr Cook.

Visitors to the website also raised the funds required to allow the study to be accessible to the public.

The results of the paper are explained in detail on a new website, theconsensusproject.com, launched today.

Media Contact: Communications Officer Kate Hannah , 0425 752 904, or UQ Global Change Institute Research Fellow John Cook, 0431 276 267 or j.cook3@uq.edu.au.