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CO2 emissions

A man walks near polluting factories in Kamisu, Japan on November 29, 2019. (Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

'Delay Is the New Denial': Study Confirms 99.9% of Scientists Agree on Climate

"It's pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change."

Brett Wilkins

The lead author of a new study showing that 99.9% of peer-reviewed scientific papers released over the past decade agree that global heating is caused primarily by human activity said Tuesday that the research should be "the last word" in the purported—but largely contrived—debate about what's causing the climate emergency.

"The reality of ACC is no more in contention among scientists than is plate tectonics or evolution."

The new research by Cornell University scientists updates and expands a 2013 study that showed 97% of peer-reviewed papers published between 1991 and 2012 supported the theory of anthropogenic climate change (ACC)—the notion that human activity was causing and exacerbating global heating.

The researchers started by examining 3,000 studies selected randomly from the 88,125 English-language climate papers published between 2012 and 2020. Of those 3,000 papers, only four were ACC-skeptical.

"Our results confirm, as has been found in numerous other previous studies of this question, that there is no significant scientific debate among experts about whether or not climate change is human-caused," the study states. "This issue has been comprehensively settled, and the reality of ACC is no more in contention among scientists than is plate tectonics or evolution."

The paper continues:

The tiny number of papers that have been published during our time period which disagree with this overwhelming scientific consensus have had no discernible impact, presumably because they do not provide any convincing evidence to refute the hypothesis that... "it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century," and that... "it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land."

Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at Cornell's Alliance for Science and the paper's lead author, told the Cornell Chronicle that "we are virtually certain that the consensus is well over 99% now and that it's pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change."

However, recent polling reveals that around one-third of Americans still do not believe human-caused climate change exists. Fossil fuel interests, the public relations firms and politicians they support, and the distorting influence of "both sides" climate reporting by advertiser-funded corporate media all play a role in this persistent—but dwindling—skepticism.

"The prevalence of mis/disinformation about the role of [greenhouse gas] emissions in modern climate change is unlikely to be driven purely by genuine scientific illiteracy or lack of understanding," the new study's authors note. "Even so, in our view it remains important to continue to inform society on the state of the evidence."

"Mitigating future warming requires urgent efforts to eliminate fossil fuels combustion and other major sources of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions," the paper stresses. "Our study helps confirm that there is no remaining scientific uncertainty about the urgency and gravity of this task."

Lynas added, "This pretty much should be the last word."

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