The Big Questions

Life, death and free will.

Humans Caused Climate Change, Scientists Agree

The scientific consensus on climate change

Is climate change occurring? Is it human caused?

I am - like many, many people - far from an expert on these topics. But they sure are important. The entire existence of the world could conceivably hinge on these questions for future generations. And I get guilty eating the last ice cream bar; so I do not want the sense of contributing to the downfall of future generations weighing on me. Nor do I want to spread false information. 

What I do know (now) is that scientists almost unanimously agree that climate change exists and that it is caused to a large extent by human activity. Various studies have found the figure to be around 97%. One of these studies looked at hundreds of scientific studies for over a decade.One of these simply asked a large number of scientists.

That is an incredible amount of agreement in the scientific community, and I imagine it is far higher than many readers would have guessed, as it is higher than I thought before looking into it.

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There will always be a small number of people that reject anything.The psychology of people who are drawn to belief in conspiracies is fascinating in itself. One study by University of Kent Psychologists, for instance, found that people who are prone to these beliefs are more likely to agree with completely contradictory explanations (about the death of Princess Diana), so long as they counter the mainstream belief. This seems to suggest that people who are drawn to conspiracy theories tend to be a bit contrarian, so maybe that is part of the appeal. But these beliefs are having serious negative consequences (not just with climate change, but with vaccinations as well).

It basically comes down to likelihood. Is it possible that the whole scientific community is in the pocket of some organization(s) hell-bent on proving that climate change is happening and is caused by humans? I suppose, to the extent that anything is at least slightly possible. I could get eaten by a hippo today, while three men watch playing the ukelele (note I do not live in an area where there are any hippos. I am safe for now :-) But based on the preponderance of evidence, climate change did occur and it is caused at least in part by human activity. That is a far more plausible explanation.



Nathan Heflick completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at The University of South Florida.


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