“But Consensus”

Contrarians question the reality, the relevance or the authoritativeness of the scientific agreement over Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Current scientific literature still overwhelmingly reflects AGW as the best explanation we got. Agreement on the core of a theory leaves room for dispute over parts of it.

Getting contrarians to come up with a set of criteria to establish the consensus on AGW that would be contrarian proof would be great. Ask them what would convince them, how to do it, and what’s their excuse not to do it.


There is not a single survey of climate scientists that reports 97% agreement with the proposition that most of the observed warming was caused by human activity.


The intense debate about the exact percentage of climate scientists who believe in catastrophic climate change is predicated on Dadaist science.


Objections and Replies

97%. It is not clear how 97% has been established in C13 {1}, which is—
☞ Numbers matter little. Nobody denies {2} the consensus over AGW.

Americans. Most Americans are SKEPTICAL about climate change so—
☞ That’s not true anymore.

Certainty. 97% consensus is too often construed as 97% certainty
☞ Identifying the consensus claim {3} neutralizes this strawperson.

Fact. Science is determined by fact, not cons—
☞ Facts don’t stand alone. Humans pick those they please. And those that are accepted as true are determined by consensus, whether you like it or not.

Gatekeeping. There is a consensus only because it refuses to publish—
☞ The reward to disprove AGW is great. V. #ButDebateMe.

Inexistent. Consensus doesn’t exist, though some ideas are endorsed by—
☞ Using a different word won’t make scientific consensus disappears.

Objectivity. A measure of consensus is not an objective basis for—
☞ While we’re waiting for that objective basis, consensus is here to stay.

Political. The consensus is political all the way down—
Science has always been political. Politics by scientific consensus would give deliberations. I’m all for bringing science to power.

Science. But science is not about consens—
☞ A consensus claim, even when made by scientific institutions, is a political speech act. Nevertheless, #ButScience is another square.

Support. Many scientific papers support contrarians, therefore—
☞ Anything can. How do they contest the consensus over AGW?

Surveys. Not a single survey of climate scientists that reports—
One found that 90% of respondents with more than 10 climate-related peer-reviewed publications endorsed AGW as the dominant driver.

Tol. Richard has demonstrated that C13 was—
☞ He has mostly shown that persistence is key to publishing papers.

Tribalism. Appeal to consensus is meant to enforce tribalism— 
☞ To try to empower people with the Sapere Aude mantra is all well and good, but at some point we need to get real. That’s just not how it works empirically. There are steep limits to what we can judge by ourselves, and we all rely on our networks for trust or distrust.

Truth. Having 98% of scientists saying something does not make it so—
☞ More generally, nothing implies anything unless it implies it. Your point?

Wrong, perhaps. The consensus can be wrong—
☞ To err is part of the empirical course. Never being wrong is worse.


{1} C13. — Contrarian may target a paper published in 2013. No need to delve into old minutiae, cf. Climateball Episodes. The consensus on AGW is clear.

{2} Nobody Denies. — As Richie himself admits: The consensus is of course in the high nineties. No one ever said it was not.

{3} Consensus Claim. — The claim is that humans are the main cause of global warming. That’s what AGW stands for. Is is as incontrovertible as can empirically be. The IPCC’s statement changed over the years.

* * *


The Consensus Project shows how papers that come with websites rock.

Climate Change and Human Health shows how position statements work.

The Yale Programme on Climate Science Communication researches public attitude, preferences, and behaviors.


2021-10; Greater than 99% consensus on human caused climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature; DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac2966

Favorite Climateball Episodes

2018-06. Science Has Always Been Political shows how friends can disagree.

2016-14. Consensus on Consensus.

2015-08. The Conceits of Consensus.

2015-03. Persistence!

2014-06; Our new consensus study; where I try to promote constructive criticism.

2013-06; Richard Tol’s fourth draft. Illustrates how hard it is to get constructive criticism.

2013-05. Consensus: Behind the numbers.
Archived: https://archive.vn/imyDf.

2012-07. No Consensus on Consensus Part II.