A field of soybeans in northern Indiana getting irrigatedA field of thirsty soybeans in northern Indiana got some irrigation help during the devastating drought of 2012. (Photo by Keith Robinson)

Climate change consensus extends beyond climate scientists

By Natalie van Hoose - Published May 12, 2016

A Purdue University-led survey of nearly 700 scientists from nonclimate disciplines shows that more than 90 percent believe average global temperatures are higher than pre-1800s levels and that human activity has significantly contributed to the rise.

The study is the first to show that consensus on human-caused climate change extends beyond climate scientists to the broader scientific community, said Linda Prokopy, a professor of natural resource social science.

"Our survey indicates that an overwhelming majority of scientists across disciplines believe in anthropogenic climate change, are highly certain of these beliefs and find climate science to be credible," Prokopy said. "Our results also suggest that scientists who are climate-change skeptics are well in the minority."

Previous studies have shown that about 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists believe in human-caused climate change, and a review of scientific literature on the existence of climate change indicated that about 97 percent of studies affirm climate change is happening. But no direct surveys had assessed whether the general agreement on the impact of human activities on the Earth’s climate extended to scientists in other disciplines.

Prokopy and fellow researchers conducted a 2014 survey of scientists from more than 10 nonclimate disciplines at Big Ten Conference universities to determine the relative prevalence of belief in, and skepticism of, climate change in the scientific community.