What are the processes responsible for climate change?
The IPCC report provides an authoritative compilation of scientific evidence about climate change. But how representative is it of scientific opinion? I.e. do climate scientists agree/disagree with the IPCC’s position presented in its Assessment Reports? I have taken a quick review of some of the latest literature to see whether this reflects the actual opinion of the scientific community.
According to six studies looking at climate change literature from published climate scientists between 90% and 100% of them agree with anthropogenic global warming as outlined by the IPCC’s report (Cook et al. 2016). Further work by Cook et al. (2016) indicate a more accurate consensus is around 97%. This number is reduced slightly when opinion from less relevant experts are taken into account or indeed assuming that papers that make no clear conclusion on warming factors actually dis-agree with the hypothesis. This is shown in work by Tol (2016).
Analysis by Steffen et al. (2018) gains credibility from the fact that its fundamental assumptions come from the theory of planetary thresholds, which themselves have been well documented with a number of sources providing significant evidence. This is reinforced with the knowledge that the behaviour of the Earths system´s movement between glacial and non-glacial states over the last 0.5 -1 million years has been recorded and understood There is also high confidence in the research that tipping points are hard to reverse once reached. Credibility could be further improved through more in-depth and quantitative modelling of Earth’s systems (Steffen et al. 2018).
Despite the strong scientific consensus that human activities are largely responsible for recent climate change, many people are sceptical of this., but why is this? Perhaps people are sceptical of the human contribution towards climate change as they are lacking personal experience of its effects or are prevented by individual values and beliefs to accept the science. Bain et al. (2015) adds that by accepting its connection many people would have to change their political ideologies, which in itself is difficult to facilitate. There has also been a failure in the communication of the theories needed to persuade non-believers that anthropological climate change is even occurring.
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Keenan, T. F., Prentice, I. C., Canadell, J. G., Williams, C. A., Wang, H., Raupach, M. and Collatz, G. J., 2016. Recent pause in the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 due to enhanced terrestrial carbon uptake. Nature Communications, 7.
Deb Richter Jr, D., Houghton, R.A., 2011. Gross CO2 fluxes from land-use change: Implications for reducing global emissions and increasing sinks. Carbon Management 2, 41-47.
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