My favourite scene from the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth is when Al Gore presents a PowerPoint slide that illustrates how the media for years acted as if there were two sides of a debate on climate change.
He showed how reporters and editors often afforded equal time and space to contradictory reports when in reality, Gore argued, there was far more evidence supporting one side over the other.
The media’s collective presentation of a false equivalence contributed to years of confusion around whether or not most scientists were in agreement that climate change is in fact anthropogenic.
Some right-wing media outlets still present the science on climate change as inconclusive, but it doesn’t happen as often as it did 10 years ago.
That’s partly because many reporters have gained a better understanding of the issue, and now concede that they did the public a grave disservice with those reports that vastly inflated the extent to which the research on climate change was unresolved. It’s also because the research is settled—not sort-of or mostly, but near-absolutely conclusive beyond any reasonable doubt.
Hopefully (optimistically?) minimizing future conjecture on the topic is a new graphic created by James Lawrence Powell, a distinguished scientist of geochemistry with a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Powell previously analysed more than 13,950 peer-reviewed articles on climate change published between 1991 and 2012. Now, he’s returned to that study, bringing its date range right up to December 2013.
There were 2,259 peer-reviewed articles on climate change published between November 2012 and December 2013, Powell found. Of those, 2,258 concluded that climate change was the result of human behaviour; one disagreed.
“The scientific literature since 1991 contains a mountain of evidence confirming man-made global warming as true and no convincing evidence that it is false,” Powell wrote in a blog post alongside his new chart. “Global warming denial is a house of cards.”