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Survey Shows Majority Of Experts Agree Humans Are Cause Of Climate Change

Evening Edition

Aired 5/20/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Naomi Oreskes, Professor, History and Science Studies, UC San Diego


Despite images of massive ice caps melting and thick pollution choking the air, there is still debate when it comes to climate change and global warming, even though science backs it up. The debate also continues over what's causing it. Now, a survey of climate experts points to a cause: humans.

The study calls those who do not believe in the concept of global warming "a vanishingly small proportion" of published research on the issue. The survey of the work of almost 30,000 scientists found 97% of published papers agree human activity is the cause of climate change.

But the debate in the media continues to suggest climate change is still an open question.

This study expands on work done by UC San Diego social science professor Naomi Oreskes. Her research almost a decade ago reached the same conclusion. Oreskes says misinformation has caused the disparity between what the public perceives and what is actual science.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 20, 2013 at 1:46 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

This was an excellent story. I listened to this on the noon-time program whilst gettin’ my groove on at the gym, and it was so refreshing to hear a story on climate change that tackles the tricky area of how politics sometimes dictates science but it was presented in a way which itself was not politically charged.

The always wonderful Allison St. John and Professor Oreskes broke-down the FACTS and gave a historical background that illustrates the forces behind misinformation when it comes to climate change.

I don’t think anyone said the words “Democrat” or “Republican” once – and that’s how it should be.

We all live on this planet and doing everything we can to ensure our planet remains healthy should be a top priority for anyone regardless of their political ideologies.

I found it really interesting when the Professor illustrated early climate change denying having a link to the tobacco industry.

It is so very frustrating that greed has made a multi-billion dollar industry out of trying to con people into thinking pumping huge amounts of pollutants in our soil, air and water every day has no effect on our earth’s ecosystems and climate. It really is almost as brazen as convincing people the earth is flat.

If the same amount of money and political lobbying that has been put into the climate change denying industry were put into trying to convince people the earth was flat, we would indeed have millions of people who actually DO think the earth is flat. They would chalk-up satellite space images of a round earth to government conspiracy and would say the reason you can fly around the world has to do with a higher religious power, not because of a round-shaped planet.

It’s completely insane and this story presents that insanity in a very sane and non-finger pointing manner which I think we need more of.

Well done on this one, KPBS.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | May 20, 2013 at 4:03 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Wow, it sure sounds like the experts all believe in the problem and have identified the cause. With certainty at that. Do they know how to fix it yet? If they do, then that means they know how to stop humanity from destroying itself. If the experts on this science and the leaders of our nations all know and understand this so well, then they should prevent us from destroying ourselves regardless of public opinion on the matter, public vote, money being made (no matter the amount), etc. They should act to stop us at all costs. Yet, they don't seem to be doing that for some reason. What is the reason?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | May 20, 2013 at 4:48 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Nicely done KPBS. Finally, a well composed non-partisan story with solid journalistic credibility. A positive step forward!

I hope we can FINALLY move the public debate from the science behind climate change to the solution.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | May 20, 2013 at 5:24 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Hogwash !!!!!!!! Follow the money. Increased taxes for the stupid people who go along with chosen studies in a tainted philosophy. I will pay none of them. LOL

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Avatar for user 'DIZZY'

DIZZY | May 20, 2013 at 6:59 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

This article insinuates that maybe we should do away with humanity. In fact maybe it has to do with population control.
Come back and talk about this bull after China and India, and Russia all sign on first then maybe ill think about it. Talk about economic destructive legislation possibly even designed .Geeeeeeeeeeezzzz What the heck are they teaching the young vulnerable minds of America.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 20, 2013 at 9:13 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Muckapoo - if you follow the money, you will find the fossil-fuel industry and corporate industry in general who wants few or no regulations have pumped FAR more money into this debate than anyone.

It is proven scientific fact that volcanoes, when large enough, can impact global climate by the smoke/chemicals they release into the atmosphere. There are documented historical cases of large volcanoes erupting and causing climate shifts powerful enough to alter agriculture production thousands of miles away.

What makes people think that industrial man-made pollutants being pumped into our atmosphere daily can't also alter the climate?

The promising thing - when the volcanoes were done erupting, the climate gradually returned to how it was per-eruption. Maybe we can undo or prevent some of the damage by taking action.

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Avatar for user 'RichardRider'

RichardRider | May 21, 2013 at 8:55 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Which pays more -- grants for confirming harmful man-made global warming or evil-corporation payments to deny global warming? Answer -- grants to further hype global warming. BILLIONS paid for such "sky-is-falling" (well, polluted) research, vs. millions paid by evil-corporations supposedly denying man's culpability.

The bigger the projected global warming catastrophe, the bigger the subsequent grants. If a researcher concludes that global warming is NOT a problem (or a man-made problem), the grants will dry up.

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Avatar for user 'RichardRider'

RichardRider | May 21, 2013 at 9:23 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Here's a good article on the stunning, lop-sided difference in funding for the two global warming viewpoints:

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 21, 2013 at 10:34 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

One hand-picked group of experts who have an agenda agree that climate change is caused by humans. This is not some indisputable fact, it is a result that a group of people were told to find support for.

As a few have mentioned or alluded to on here, the green industry is big money. But there is an equal or larger force behind it as well.

People with a communist agenda are using environmentalism to hinder capitalism in this country. Most environmentalists don't know that they are useful idiots who have been caught up in a fit of emotion and coerced into being pawns for people with a decades long plan for America.

Here is one excerpt from an article that some might find interesting:

Dr. Margaret Maxey, geophysicist at Texas Tech estimates that just three volcanic eruptions, Indonesia (1883), Alaska (1912) and Iceland (1947), spewed more carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxides into the atmosphere than all of the activities of industrial man. According to Science (11/82), termites annually generate more than twice as much carbon dioxide as mankind does burning fossil fuels. One termite species annually emits 600,000 metric tons of formic acid into the atmosphere, an amount equal to the combined contributions of automobiles, refuse combustion and vegetation. Humans contribute only five percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide; nature does the rest.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 21, 2013 at 2:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

JeanMarc, if anthropogenic climate change were a hoax by "communists" as you hilariously claim, there would be far less consensus by the scientific community.

In order for what you and the other deniers are saying to be true, thousands of people from around the world who decided to invest their time and money and dedicate their lives to studying climate would have to all uniformly agree to suppress the truth about something they are passionate about.

In any profession there are corrupt people who succumb to greed, but in order for your ridiculous suggestions to have merit it would need to be 97% of the people who dedicated their lives to climate research who are involved in a conspiracy.

Furthermore, in order for someone to succumb to greed at the peril of our planet, it would have to be people who don't really care about our planet.

I honestly doubt 97% of the people who dedicated their lives to studying our climate's planet hate our planet enough to do this.

Another thing that would need to be true for your insanity to be reality is that corporate polluters would have to care more about the planet than environmentalists. According to you and your denier friends, corporations only care about the truth as opposed to profit, but 97% of environmentalists and scientists are either greedy and only care about money or stupid followers of those just mentioned.

You can provide excerpts from someone who shares your opinion, that proves zilch.

So you scour the internet and pic from the scant few climate scientists who don't agree and ignore the majority.

That would be like if I went to 20,000 doctor's and all but 3 of them said I needed surgery. I could quote the 3 and try and make a case for it, after all they are qualified doctor's. And that's exactly what you are doing quoting the "Dr." above.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 21, 2013 at 2:27 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

JeanMarc | today at 10:34 a.m. ― 3 hours, 51 minutes ago
"One hand-picked group of experts who have an agenda agree that climate change is caused by humans".

Yeah, the "hand-picked" group to whom you refer are scientists who apecialize in climate.

We certainly don't want to "hand-pick" that group when evaluating climate change, do we?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 21, 2013 at 2:34 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Par for the leftist course, you did not respond do the fact I stated - all human activity only accounts for 5% of the atmospheric carbon dioxide.

In the last 100 years, the average temperature has only gone up about 1/2 a degree. A very normal fluctuation.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 21, 2013 at 2:49 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Yes, Jean, let's you and I who are not climate scientists start debating the science by focusing in on random facts without taking the years and background required to put them all together and consider them against millions of other factors. That will end with two people looking stuff up on the internet that, while true, needs to be considered in totality with all the data existing on this topic. And there is a LOT of data. This is why I base my conclusions on what I believe here not ONLY on my own research and intelligence but ALSO on the overwhelming consensus by those who HAVE spent the years combing through billions of data points.

Do you really think the thousands of scientists who have looked at billions of data points over decades to draw the conclusions they have about anthropogenic climate change have all managed to not take into consideration your termite theory or the numbers you present??

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | May 21, 2013 at 4:05 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

JeanMarc, RichardRider, you guys are right on. Peking, you're correct in that you should not focus in on random facts because you will miss the big picture. The big picture is a possible problem, and a response (or lack thereof) by those in authority, both scientific and political/governmental. The response should give insight into the the severity of the problem. I don't believe that the experts in the science are unable to communicate with those in positions of governmental authority either directly or through their expert advisers, i.e., they are only able to communicate to the "more intelligent and informed" masses (the general public) who, in turn, forces the ignorant and uninformed government to take action by raising their voices and voting. To better illustrate the sarcasm in my previous post, imagine the following scenario:
Scientists discover that an asteroid is headed straight for San Francisco, and calculate that it will obliterate the entire US. However, there is a short window of opportunity to send a special missile to intercept the asteroid and knock it off course. But, it will require a public vote for approval to act. If the public didn't fully understand the severity of the issue, and voted against the missile idea, would the government allow America to be wiped off the globe? Not a chance, they would do whatever was necessary to protect humanity, regardless of public opinion.
And so again, why does the government not take radical action to combat climate change? Perhaps it is way over hyped and sensationalized, as are many slanted issues portrayed in the media. Media would certainly be a much less profitable business if the stories weren't exciting, attention grabbing and designed to emotionally manipulate the masses.

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Avatar for user 'casualobserver'

casualobserver | May 22, 2013 at 4:52 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

When mankind damaged the ozone level the earth was not able to "take care of itself;" it has taken human reduction of the ozone-deleting aerosols to reduce the human impact. When humans polluted the water to an extent that rivers in Ohio were flammable the earth was not able to "take care of itself;" it took human action to correct the human-caused problem. While temperature change over time is a natural process, it occurs in geological time, over thousands of years. The global temperature changes we have experienced in the last 55 years would have taken 7000 years if they were a natural process. It is not surprising that while the overwhelming scientific position is that global warming is a man made process, many in the broader public are skeptical. Scientific knowledge always precedes what is understood by the broader population. The educated scientists of their time understood that the world was not flat, while the average person continued to fear falling off the edge.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | May 22, 2013 at 7:07 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps it would be more accurate to state that there is a component of the change in temperature that is faster than the typically recorded cycle that correlates well with human release of CO2 while not necessarily being directly causally related.

In either case, the question becomes what we are willing to give up and which rice bowls we are willing to break to diminish our contribution.
From my perspective, distributed home solar or wind generation and centralized LFTR or fusion base power is the way to go. Anybody have a constructive comment?

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | May 22, 2013 at 8:33 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Fusion power is an exciting possible energy solution, that is the most promising in my mind, especially if we are able to get a hold of large amounts of helium-3.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | May 22, 2013 at 8:56 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Another good example of objective journalism. Can we now have a similar story on the media's fascination with climate change deniers?

We need to be equally objective when reporting these silly points of view. People who think that climate change is a conspiracy, or that the President is not American, or that human beings co-existed with dinosaurs are missing something fundamental to dealing with reality. Why does the media present such nonsense as anything but nonsense?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 22, 2013 at 9:53 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

The moon is full of helium-3. One space shuttle full can power the United States for a year, if we can just build reactors for it.

On a related note, China has been working on a space program to get to the moon for several years, and countries are staking out claims on the moon. People foolishly assumed this was a matter of national pride on China's part. In truth, they are preparing for a helium-3 powered future while Obama cancelled our or seriously cut back our space programs.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 22, 2013 at 10:11 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

That man causes this is no longer an issue, as it has been backed by science. The question is, HOW MUCH is caused by man.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | May 22, 2013 at 10:47 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

There is a slew of solar projects which have already been approved right here in California. There will be a huge solar power station located in Imperial Valley.

Funny how some think something as simple as a bi-national orchestra is impossible yet believe mining helium-3 on the moon is a practical idea.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 22, 2013 at 3:10 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

DeLaRick - The thing is, a bi-national orchestra benefits no one. Helium-3 benefits everyone. The work hard work and investment will pay off. A bi-national orchestra will just take extra effort with no return on investment.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | May 22, 2013 at 8:35 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Coincidentally, today I signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar company, locking in my electricity price for the next twenty years at about 14 cents per KWh. The system cost about $9,000, divided by twenty years and then twelve months, means I'll be paying $35 month for electricity for twenty years.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | May 23, 2013 at 9:34 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

DeLaRick, a bi-national orchestra is certainly not impossible, just pointless. Mining helium-3 is neither impossible nor pointless.

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Avatar for user 'blueskies121'

blueskies121 | August 25, 2013 at 12:47 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

JeanMarc "all human activity only accounts for 5% of the atmospheric carbon dioxide"

Actually, since the dawn of the Industrial Age, we have increased global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by over 40%, from 270 ppm to 397 ppm. And temperatures have risen 0.8 C, not 0.5 as you contend. Meanwhile, the Arctic has lost 80% of its mass and its volume as compared to 1979. Greenland lost over 600 billion tons of ice in 2012 (as compared to its average between 1979 and 2003 of 125 billion tons). Antarctica is gaining in sea ice, but the net loss in its land ice is 100 billion tons per year. These are sobering numbers.

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