97% Consequential Misperceptions: Ethics of Consensus on Global Warming

18 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2016

Date Written: December 19, 2016


Cook et al (2016) presents a collaborative work by several consensus study authors, who claim a 97% agreement by undefined climate science experts that “humans are causing recent global warming.” The statement illustrates the problem of trying to use a social proof of consensus in place of scientifically defined evidence. The lack of empirical parameters that specifically identify the claimed ratio of human effect versus natural influence, the timescale in question, the level of risk or benefit, and the human activity or causative factor(s) are undefined. The notion of consensus defies the fundamental principle of scientific inquiry which is not about agreement, but rather a continuous search for understanding. This paper evaluates key disparities of Cook et al (2016) and outlines why a claimed consensus is a powerful tool for driving public policy, but an inappropriate and unethical means of conducting scientific inquiry or informing the public.

Keywords: scientific consensus, climate change, anthropogenic global warming, Asch

Suggested Citation

Stirling, Michelle, 97% Consequential Misperceptions: Ethics of Consensus on Global Warming (December 19, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2887245 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2887245

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