Is there really “consensus” in the scientific community on the reality of anthropogenic climate change? As N. Oreskes points out in a recent article in Science, that is itself a question that can be addressed scientificially. Oreskes took a sampling of 928 articles on climate change, selected objectively (using the key phrase “global climate change”) from the published peer-reviewed scientific literature. Oreskes concluded that of those articles (about 75% of them) that deal with the question at all, 100% (all of them) support the consensus view that a significant fraction of recent climate change is due to human activities. Of course, there are undoubtedly some articles that have been published in the peer-reviewed literature that disagree with this position and that Oreskes’s survey missed, but the fact that her sample didn’t find them indicates that the number of them is very very small. One could debate whether overwhelming consensus is adequate grounds for action on climate change, but there are no grounds for debating whether such consensus actually exists.
Update 26/12/2004: Naomi Oreskes has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post discussing the topic further. -mike [Note: further discussion on this topic should go under the newer RealClimate post, Just what is this Consensus?]