Many instructors are probably like me and include a module, or at least some coverage, of the arguments of climate skeptics. I think this is a salutary approach in any climate course, because: 1. there are often students with serious reservations about the climate change science who may be hesitant to express such concerns because of fear of criticism. A class session that respectfully addresses these issues helps to engage such students rather than alienate them; 2. If we want to help our students address these issues in other fora, it’s important to help them engage with the arguments and develop effective responses.
One of the arguments advanced by skeptics is that there is a substantial division of opinion in the climate community about whether warming is occurring, or is linked to anthropogenic activities. However, a new study by James Powell, Executive Director of the National Physical Science Consortium, powerfully demonstrates that this argument is largely a canard, at least in the realm of peer-reviewed studies on climate change. Powell conducted a search of the Web of Science, an online science publication tool, for peer-reviewed climate science studies, producing 13,950 articles. Powell’s study revealed the following:
- Only 24 of the 13,950 articles focused on climate change science (0.17%) “clearly reject global warming or endorse a cause other than CO2 emissions for observed warming;”
- The 24 studies that rejected climate change science theories have been cited only a total of 113 times over the nearly 21 years surveyed in the study. These publications also put the lie to the assertion that climate change skeptics are prevented from publishing in peer-reviewed literature, though it does demonstrate that these publications have engendered very little support;
- Very few of the climate change skeptics who regularly testify before Congress, are interviewed in the press, or write books or post on websites, have published peer-reviewed studies on climate change.