Climate Change John Oliver of Last Week Tonight and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, discuss climate consensus. (YouTube screenshot)

Published on July 31st, 2015 | by Sandy Dechert


Human–Climate Link Still 97%? Nope. Over 99%. (VIDEO)

July 31st, 2015 by  

James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium and whistleblower on climate change denial, has a mission to bring media and readers up to date on how many scientists believe people cause climate change. The anthropogenic climate change number is larger than you might think.

Dr. Powell has examined titles and abstracts of more than 24,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change published during the past couple of years. He has identified 69,406 authors named in the articles. Only four of them (one in every 17,352 scientists) rejected the fact that human emissions cause climate change. He refers back to 11 years ago, when Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor of the history of science and coauthor of the book Merchants of Doubt, reviewed 928 abstracts of articles on anthropogenic climate change. She didn’t run across one that rejected it.

Says Powell:

The 97% is wrong, period. Look at it this way: If someone says that 97% of publishing climate scientists accept anthropogenic global warming, your natural inference is that 3% reject it. But I found only 0.006% who reject it. That is a difference of 500 times.

Powell has submitted his findings to a peer-reviewed journal, but his article has not been published yet.

Powell's climate change agreement numbers

In looking at the climate consensus studies, Taylor Hill of probably exaggerates American ignorance by comparing Powell’s numbers to the March 2015 Gallup poll and Pew AAAS study, because the disbelief quotients on anthropogenic climate change there are on the high end. Had he chosen to highlight the New York Times/Stanford University poll taken during the same time period, the numbers would have appeared quite different.

Says Powell:

Many people evidently feel that they can accept the findings of science that they agree with and reject those that they find offensive or inconvenient. But it doesn’t work that way. Science is of a piece, all fitting together like a beautiful tapestry. To say that climate scientists are wrong is to say that all these fields are wrong and therefore science itself is wrong. But if it were, nothing would work. People can’t have it both ways.

Meanwhile, for fun, check out John Oliver of Last Week Tonight; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and others in the video below. They’ve put together a fabulous take on “the climate consensus.”

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • Anybody seen Cowspiracy yet?

  • Greg

    CO2 strongly encourages plant growth. We need more CO2 in the air, so we can grow more food to feed the world. The increasing CO2 concentration is the planet’s way of coping with increased population. More CO2 is good.

  • I wish I could use this as ammunition against my ignorant relatives. But it seems that no amount of scientific proof can eclipse denial and blind faith in some people.

    • wattleberry

      The doubters invariably base their views on sound logic. For instance, an acquaintance said it’s not possible ‘ because we’re not big enough’.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Man, show them some pictures of our mega-cities and drive them around to see how little unspoiled land is left and then ask them how big we are.

        • Agreed. The people I was referencing, to their defense, live in a very rural area. They just do not understand, or care to understand, the state of our climate, because it isn’t affecting them as much as others.

          • neroden

            Presumably they live not only in a rural area, but in the temperate zone. In the Arctic, the effects of climate change are bloody obvious, and in the tropics, they’re pretty darn obvious too.

      • Ross

        I wonder how many of the people that believe humans couldn’t possibly affect the earth also believe in homeopathy.

        • wattleberry

          Do you? Hmmm.

        • Lakota in Austin

          Most of them believe that, while 7 billion people can’t affect the climate on one small planet where they all reside, the creator of the entire universe listens to their individual prayers. And they see no contradiction in this whatsoever, because America, Jesus, The Word of God, and Family Values.

      • Keanwood

        Not big enough. Lol. Sure one ant can’t move a pizza but when he brings his friends… People can’t imagine what 7 billion humans are capable of.

        It is sad though because people really do use these arguments to make decisions.

        • Lakota in Austin

          I hadn’t thought of it like this before, but it’s very similar to the problem that many people have with evolution — it’s beyond the capacity of our minds to grasp such large numbers, such as the number of different organisms that exist at any given moment, the number of mutations that occur among those organisms, the number of generations during which such mutations occur, and so on. At a certain point, some people just give up trying to grasp it and leap to an intuitively appealing conclusion such as “All species were created as unique and immutable” and “All climate change is caused by the sun.”

    • Mike

      I’m told by a person I know (in California) that it’s all a communist plot (really, he believes this to the very fiber of his being)……

      • Lakota in Austin

        Yeah, that one is freaky, and I’d be terrified if I harbored that kind of paranoia. I’ve been hospitalized for psychosis caused by extreme sodium depletion, and even with all the wild hallucinations and crazy notions running through my awareness, I didn’t conceive of any global conspiracies involving every reputable scientific organization, publication, academic institution, government agency, and the Pope. Is your acquaintance’s sanity a bit iffy?

        • Mike

          I don’t think he is a “bit iffy” in the sense being discussed here. However, as stated in one of the chapters in Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything”, there is a scientific consensus that recognizes people being fixated on a preconceived mindset to a given situation, no matter how much evidence (such as peer-reviewed research) dictates said mind-set to be “wrong”. I was 28 years in the air-force (navigator on C-130s in the RCAF) and once a year we would attend 2 days of lectures that were the military equivalent of “cockpit resource management”. We would review post-crash data (tapes, etc). It is surprising how often an individual would have their focus channelized on some input that re-enforced their assumption of a situation, ignoring all the other inputs (Air France 447 was a classic example…..) Cheers.

  • JamesWimberley

    Lewis Powell has updated his study (link) to include 2012-2013. He found precisely one published paper challenging anthropogenic global warming, by Russian astronomer S. V. Avakyan. That’s out of 2,258 articles, written by a total of 9,136 authors. This datum leaves the percentage of the consensus at 99.99%. Oliver should have brought 10,000 warmists onto his set.

    The denialists will now retreat into claiming it’s all a sinister warmist conspiracy to deny the few brave truth-tellers a platform: remember Galileo! Wegener! Semmelweiss! But none of them was unable to publish; Galilieo was persecuted by clerics, not other scientists; Wegener could advance no plausible mechanism for his theory of continental drift; and Semmelweiss was basically accusing his professional colleagues of killing patients with their unwashed bare hands. They are not typical of scientific innovators. Newton, Lavoisier, Einstein, Faraday, Darwin, and Pasteur no doubt faced normal pushback from those whose views they challenged, but they weren’t marginalised.

    • Brett

      Tinfoil hats all around!

    • Ross

      Looking up that single paper there’s a clue in the introduction to a belief that may be clouding the author’s judgement.

      “The point is that the switch of world powers first to decreasing the use of fossil fuel and then to carbon-free energy within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol may lead to economic collapse for Russia”.

      • Lakota in Austin

        Wow. Of course Russian scientists are never under pressure to publish papers that are not displeasing to the authorities, so I’m sure it was all on the up and up.

        • IsaacLHawk


  • Jason hm

    I thinks it’s well established that CO2 increases are impacting the climate in harmfull ways. The really problem is in the details how much change and how fast and as always but as always it’s critical to remain skeptical of everything but most especially be skeptic scientific assertions relation to complex systems that involve thousands or millions of different variables. Remember medical and nutrition science was wrong about trans-fats and dietary cholesterol for 50 years and the dietary recommendations that came out of those faulty assumption have indirectly killed millions of people.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Except that when it comes to climate we understand the physics very well.
      Any uncertainty is in the details, not the main principles.

      • Jason hm

        Climate science is not just physics it involves physics and mathematical modeling but making those models with what we think we know now does not account for the unknown variables at play that are yet to be discovered. I’m not a denying just reserving some health skepticism in regards to some of the more dramatic eminent complete doom and damnation predictions some folk seem to be fond of. There is crap ton of fossil fuel still buried on this planet and the science and reasoned arguments against burning the stuff needs to be honest and non hyperbolic in order to hold up over the long haul. It’s a long game.

        • Doug Cutler

          That being as it may, do you then agree to apply the cautionary principal? Nine meteorologists call for tornadoes and a tenth merely for high winds; do you gather up family and friends and head for shelter or plan an afternoon of kite flying?

          In the case of global warming applying the cautionary principal is even more of a no-brainer since mitigation through renewable energy uptake now presents negligible or even positive cost outcomes including the benefits of cleaner air – to echo your concern for human health.

          • Keanwood

            Exactly. Every reasonable person should use caution. If 9/10 doctors said you had cancer and 1 said you were fine. And the treatment was not harmful regardless of whether you are sick or not. You should always pick treatment.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Modeling is involved in predicting what happens next. It has nothing to do with understanding the basic principles.

          We know that we are melting permafrost and we know why. What we don’t know is how rapidly the permafrost will melt in the future and how much methane that will release into the atmosphere. We build models to help us predict these future events.

          We have known the basics for well over 100 years. There’s no question on whether CO2 and other greenhouse gases block the radiation of heat out into space.

          There’s no question as to whether GHG levels have increased due to human activity. It’s been measured.

          • Larmion

            A model, at least a parametric one, is always based on a system of differential equations that are designed and validated by the researcher.

            While you don’t need to know every little detail of how a process works, you do need a rough understanding of the underlying principles that allows you to at least identify relevant parameters.

            For example, you don’t need to know every detail about permafrost. But you do need to know that, for example, local methane concentration is a relevant parameter and that the daily raspberry consumption of the natives is not.

          • Jason hm

            No but the ciliated hairs on tundra moss and lichens and the microbial colonies that inhabit them might constitute a unknown variable that makes current models methane release inaccurate. I’m not suggesting this is the case i’m just throwing out a hypothetical of the kinda unknown variables often mess up otherwise solid looking models.


          • Larmion

            True, and that is precisely why some prior knowledge is required. If you don’t have good empirical data or theoretical knowledge of the system under study to go on, you can’t know that said tundra moss is a relevant variable/parameter.

            Mathematical modelling is a circular process: you build and validate a model based on the data available. Sensitivity analysis of the model then shows you which variables or parameters need to be studied in more detail. This allows you to improve the model further. If done correctly, that improved model might then show another set or parameters that have to be included or studied further.

          • neroden

            Unfortunately there’s a lot of possibilities which indicate that methane release may be a lot higher than current models predict, too. 🙁

    • MrL0g1c

      Look up Greenhouse effect. – have you ever known a greenhouse where the greenhouse effect doesn’t work?

      CO2 is the glass and we are adding more of it which increases the effect.

      This is not like nutritional science.

      PS and regardless of the greenhouse effect and climate change we very urgently needed to stop pumping out CO2 because:

      LINK: Acid Test: Rising CO2 Levels Killing Ocean Life

      LINK: The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct

      • Ross

        The criticism of nutritional science is likely unfair. The popular perception of the state of nutritional knowledge is more subject to misunderstanding and bad journalism than the relatively simple greenhouse effect and energy imbalance explanation for planet earth warming up.

        • MrL0g1c

          No, the criticism is fair, although the press no doubt exacerbate the problem. Part of the problem is studies which are done which don’t follow strict scientific method – these studies should not be given press time but they are.

          According to nutritionists:

          Sugar is not bad…. Sugar is bad.
          Sweeteners are not bad…. Sweeteners are bad.
          Butter is not bad…butter is bad… butter is not bad.
          Saturated fat is bad…. saturated fat is not bad.
          Should eat 5 a day fruit’n’veg….9 a day…. not important to eat many.

          Etc, it’s hard to know what a healthy diet is then they keep flip-flopping.

          • Larmion

            The press doesn’t exacerbate the problem, the press is the whole problem. They draw firm conclusions where the actual research doesn’t dare to go quite as far.

            Doing a quick Web of Science trawl shows that:

            – There is no peer reviewed literature suggesting that sugar is good.

            – There is no peer reviewed literature that finds evidence of harm from common sweeteners like steviol glycoside, sucralose or aspartame.

            – There is no peer reviewed literature suggesting that low fruit/veg consumption is good. The only unknown is how much fruit you’d have to consume before diminishing returns kick in. Both five and nine are rather arbitrary numbers, which were meant to present a simple and clear message to the public. Simply replace them with ‘a lot’ if you want to be safe.

            – Saturated fat: the current evidence is that long chain saturated fatty acids are harmful. Shorter chains as found in butter might be beneficial in moderation, but more research is needed.

          • Brett

            Sorry, what?

            “- There is no peer reviewed literature that finds evidence of harm from common sweeteners like steviol glycoside, sucralose or aspartame.”

            In 10 seconds, I found these:

            2. Walton RG, Hudak R, Green-Waite RJ. Adverse reactions to aspartame: double-blind challenge in patients from a vulnerable population. Biol Psychiatry 1993;34(1-2): 13-7. [PubMed]
            3. Van Den Eeden SK, Koepsell TD, Longstreth Jr WT, van Belle G, Daling JR, McKnight B. Aspartame ingestion and headaches: a randomized, crossover trial. Neurology 1994;44: 1787-93. [PubMed]
            4. Lipton RB, Newman LC, Cohen JS, Solomon S. Aspartame as a dietary trigger of headache. Headache1989;29(2): 90-2. [PubMed]

            If I was more academically diligent I could probably find peer-reviewed studies some of your other ones too. Where are you searching for journal articles exactly?

          • Larmion

            Sorry, what?

            – the first study: tiny sample size, so questionable results. More importantly, adverse effects in a speficic demographic are not evidence of being harmful (are peanuts harmful?).
            – Second link: finds that a subset of a subset has a statistacally weak increase in headaches, with limited control for confounding variables.

            Where am I searching? Web of Science, for articles dating from 2000 and younger with at least one citation.

            I repeated the search without those filters and did indeed find some studies, including the ones you name. Modern trials with large samples found nothing significant, at any rate.

          • Brett

            Ok, so you’re going to attack the studies I provide on the basis of sample size and lack of control for confounds, here’s another one that took a minute to find:


            Sample sizes of 100-150 rats per grouping, for each sex (200-300 per grouping, which is sufficient to obtain a 95% confidence in results, with a margin of error at 7%), 6 different aspartame concentration groups and a control group. Found statistically significant correlation between aspartame consumption and multiple different carcinogenic effects.

            The study was conducted in 2006, although I don’t see how ‘current’ studies are any better than older studies, if the methodology stands, then it stands, otherwise someone would have performed a similar study and found no impacts.

            I don’t know if you consider carcinogenic effects in rats to be significant or not, perhaps you’re of the opinion that rats are not a good genetic proxy for humans, but I for one would say the studies findings are significant enough.

    • Ronald Brakels

      “Remember medical and nutrition science was wrong about trans-fats and
      dietary cholesterol for 50 years.”

      Maybe it’s because I’m not American, but I honestly don’t know if you think they erred on the side of saying trans fats and cholesterol were safer than they are or more dangerous.

      • He means they thought trans fats were Safer, I believe. It was commonplace years ago in America to chock our foods full of butters, oils and trans fats to increase the flavor. This has slowly become the ancient way of doing things, and food rarely, if ever, contains trans fats in America these days.

      • Larmion

        For cholesterol, there has been a bit of a swing as the understanding of the cholesterol metabolism changed. There has never been any doubt that cholesterol was bad, that much is true.

        But it used to be assumed that that meant that foods rich in cholesterol were to be avoided. It later turned out that uptake of cholesterol is actually rather tightly regulated, and that most excess cholesterol is instead the result of de novo synthesis from long chain saturated fats.

        That means that foods high in cholesterol but low in fat (like eggs) is much less harmful than assumed, while fatty meat was even worse than initially assumed.

        As for trans fat: it was always clear that trans fat was bad, but it used to be assumed that the nickel-catalyst based partial hydrogenation process used didn’t actually result in trans fats. It was only discovered years after its introduction that it wasn’t as stereoselective as believed.

        • neroden

          Nobody with a clue ever thought that dietary cholesterol should be avoided.

          That was a completely magical-thinking conclusion. A bunch of people who had not paid attention to the science assumed that high dietary cholesterol meant high blood cholesterol.

          Well, guess what — it doesn’t. I followed the studies back in the 1980s, and those 1980s studies stated very very clearly that dietary cholesterol was digested and had no effect whatsoever on blood cholesterol. (Dietary saturated fat does raise blood cholesterol.)

          But people bought into the whacko “low cholesterol” myth and hysteria, even so. Even smart professors who should have known better. It was sad, I tried to explain this to a bunch of them back in the 1980s. (The actual biologists knew better, however.)

    • Ross

      When there’s a preponderance of evidence for something and a simple consistent explanation for it, claims of alternative explanations naturally receive the largest measure of scepticism.

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  • Zosha123

    It’s a shame you “believers” didn’t ALLOW your scientists to have said they were; “100%” certain and not just 99% certain.
    It would have prevented the last 34 YEARS of climate action FAILURE and global DISBELIEF.
    Deniers rule no matter how hard you “believe” and hate conservatives.

    • Bob_Wallace

      No scientist worth a damn is going to say that they are 100% certain. One always leaves room for unusual events and new data.

      Only religious people are 100% certain.

      What I hate is ignorance and the abuse of the capital letter. What has the capital letter done to you that you flog it so?

      Be gentle with the capital letter. Use it wisely and it will serve you well.

      • Bob, had I tried, I could not have put my views into comment form better than you just did!

    • Brett

      Obvious troll is obvious.

    • Ross

      POTUS heads the executive branch of Government. Pop quiz, what are the other two? He “rules” and doesn’t deny anthropogenic global warming and climate change.

      • Keanwood

        What!? There are two other branches of government?

        Pew has a news quize that is kind of fun. Only 12 questions so its real quick. I love the question in there about the keystone XL pipeline.

        • Ross

          11/12. In my defence I’m not American.

          • Keanwood

            11/12 still makes you better than most. I know people who watch the news every night and score less than 6.

          • neroden

            Well, watching TV news every night would be the reason they know so little, wouldn’t it?

            I don’t think I ever learned anything from TV news. You can find news in newspapers or on the Internet or occasionally on radio. I’m not sure why TV “news” is so bad, but it really is bad.

          • Keanwood

            TV news is really terrible.

            FOX was entertaining, biased and uninformative.

            MSNBC was biased and uninformative.

            CNN was somewhat informative.

            One thing I realized was that TV news has to repeate itself every 15-20 minutes because viewers come and go. 20 minutes reading the news gets you way more than 20 minutes of TV news.

    • Lakota in Austin

      You post basically the same comment over and over across multiple websites, yet I still have no idea what the fuck you’re trying to say, or what your views are on climate change. You might want to refine your rhetorical skills. Then again, perhaps it is your objective to be as obfusc and inarticulate as possible, thus retaining an aura of enigmatic intrigue.

  • Daniel

    That is because the consensus if of scientists, which are biased. They should have asked Republican presidential candidates to balance it out.

    • Zosha123

      Too bad they couldn’t say they were one hundred percent certain because it would shut down the denier machine once and for all.

      • Doug Cutler

        That’s sarcasm, right?

    • Lakota in Austin

      Good point. All science should be handled this way. For every scientific discovery, theory, or breakthrough, there should be a committee of Republican politicians and/or Fox News personalities providing a fair and balanced perspective. If only such a system had been in place 100 years ago, we wouldn’t have to deal with modern hassles like cell phones and the internet.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We wouldn’t have a population problem. Smallpox, yellow fever and some other goodies would still be thinning our herd.

        OTOH, we wouldn’t have the Fox network….

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