A recent survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication yielded these results when asking “To the best of your knowledge, what proportion of climate scientists think that global warming is happening?”. Look at that table. The national average is pretty evenly split, with the slight majority of people willingly admitting they don’t know the answer and the vast minority thinking that few scientists believe in global warming. According to the reporter’s research, 100% believe in global warming. 98% believe in global warming due to human activity.
I know I have friends who might be reading this who don’t believe in global warming. I have no concept of why that is, but I try to respect people’s beliefs even when they don’t make sense to me. What blows my mind and my ability to maintain that respect, though, is when they project their hunches onto the scientific community. That’s just plain dangerous.
Via Daring Fireball.
UPDATE: There’s been some discussion on this topic on Google Buzz, and I thought I would include a bit of that here. I’m only including my response to a question, but I think it works out of that context:
This question is basically asking, “Are you aware of what the scientific community thinks about global warming?” I think this is a very important question. This tells you whether or not you have an informed opinion. Follow me:
Let’s say you think you know the meaning of the word “quenouille.” The dictionary is the widely accepted expert on the topic. If you know you’ve never looked it up (“Don’t know enough to say,” in other words), then you’d be willing to entertain the possibility that you’re wrong. You know you haven’t even checked in with the authority.
If you were to guess what would happen if you looked up the word in 100 dictionaries - as in, how many out of 100 would agree with your definition - that’s pretty much what people were doing in this survey. If you were to guess that most would agree with your definition, then you feel pretty confident defending your definition (in the survey, this is like saying that more than 50% of scientists believe in global warming if you also believe in it, or less than 50% if you don’t believe in global warming).
Believing you have the backing of the expert community makes you much less likely to entertain opposition to your ideas. In the case of the dictionaries, it’s pretty easy. Dictionaries are readily available. You can look up quenouille in 100s of them from any computer or smartphone. In the case of scientists, it’s a little harder. In this case, the reporter did the work for you. Scientists believe in global warming. If you don’t, then you don’t have the backing of the scientific community. If you know that, and you have good reason for it, that’s just fine. If you naively think that the scientific community is on your side when they’re not, that’s dangerous.