New Commentary Urges Climate Scientists to “Set the Record Straight”

Human-caused climate change is happening and is accelerating; dangerous impacts are becoming evident around the world, and are projected to get worse in the decades to come, possibly much worse. Nearly all climate scientists are convinced of these basic facts – but more than half of Americans do not currently understand that this scientific consensus has been reached.

YPCCC Director Anthony Leiserowitz co-authored a commentary strongly encouraging members of the climate science community to set the record straight about the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.  The commentary appears in Earth’s Future, a new online open-access journal published by the American Geophysical Union.  The authors  observe that because most Americans don’t know there is a scientific consensus  about human-caused global warming, they are less likely to believe that climate change is happening, human caused, harmful, or solvable.  Not understanding the consensus also undermines Americans’ support for a broad societal response to the threat.  The misperception is not an accident, but rather the result of a disinformation campaign that attacks climate science and impedes implementation of global warming adaptation and mitigation strategies.  Fortunately, an effective, non-political response is available to scientists and their professional societies.  YPCCC research – and others’  – demonstrate that clear messages which simply state the extent of scientific agreement can help correct the widespread misunderstanding.  We conducted experiments showing that a single exposure to a message describing the 97% scientific consensus increased respondents’ subsequent estimates of scientific agreement on the issue by 10 to 20 percent.

The potential benefits of setting the record straight are considerable. By working to overcome this barrier to public understanding of climate change, scientists can help a broader cross-section of American society – and perhaps people in other nations as well – to better understand the realities and risks of climate change, as well as the range of potential solutions.

We encourage you to download the commentary and join the effort to set the record straight.