January 22, 2009
The survey, conducted among researchers listed in the American Geological Institute's Directory of Geoscience Departments*, "found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role". The biggest doubters were petroleum geologists (47 percent) and meteorologists (64 percent). A recent poll suggests that 58 percent of Americans believe that human activity contributes to climate change.
"The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists' is very interesting," said Peter Doran, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of earth and environmental sciences who conducted the survey late last year with former graduate student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman. "Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon."
Doran said wide support among climatologists does not come as a surprise.
"They're the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you're likely to believe in global warming and humankind's contribution to it."
Writing in the publication Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, Doran and Zimmerman conclude, "the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes."
The remaining challenge, they write, "is how to effectively communicate this to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists."
*The authors contacted 10,200 scientists listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute's Directory of Geoscience Departments and received 3,146 responses to their two questions: "have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels?" and "Has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures?"