Research by AUC faculty member confirms scientific consensus that human activity changing climate

13 April 2016

When it comes to the topic of climate change, there is overwhelming agreement amongst climate scientists that recent global warming is largely caused by human activity. This conclusion is based on the results of several different studies, using different methodologies. AUC teacher Dr. Bart Verheggen is one of the co-authors of a recently published article synthesizing the results of several of these studies highlighting the scientific consensus on climate change.

Bart Verheggen scientific consensus humans changing climate,Verheggen climate change,AUC faculty research

Figure: Level of consensus on human-induced climate change versus expertise in climate science. Black circles are data based on studies of the past 10 years. Green line is a fit through the data.

Relevance of consensus

“Whereas the presence of widespread agreement is obviously not proof of a theory being correct, such widespread agreement can’t just be dismissed as irrelevant either”,  says Verheggen . “It is clear that in the case of climate change, the scientific consensus is a logical consequence of the accumulating evidence.”  

Verheggen goes on to cite an example of how ignoring this mounting evidence can have serious consequences.  In  a recent survey of American high school science teachers, almost half of the  respondents did  not provide a correct representation of the scientific conclusions because they believe there is a lot of controversy among scientists when in fact there is hardly  any scientific controversy  when it comes to the bigger picture: that the climate is changing due to human activity.

The point of Verheggen’s recent article is to bring together many of the scholars who have examined the scientific consensus  to show that, despite differences in approach, various studies  come to essentially the same conclusion: there is widespread agreement on the basic issues (it’s warming and it’s due to humans), despite claims to the contrary.

Media bias in climate change coverage

Several of these studies, including a large survey undertaken by Dr. Verheggen before joining AUC, found that the higher the scientific expertise in climate science, the higher the agreement that global warming is caused by humans. Verheggen also found that there is substantially more self-reported media exposure for those who are sceptical of a significant human influence on climate. Verheggen goes on to state that this overrepresentation of contrarian voices in the media may partly explain why the general public is more doubtful of human induced climate change than scientific experts are.

The meta-analysis of studies was spearheaded by John Cook, PhD candidate at the University of Queensland and founder of the influential website, on which so-called “sceptical” arguments are critically evaluated. 

Published by  Amsterdam University College