If you’ve read that the existence of man-made climate change remains a debate within the scientific community, it very likely came from a small, but well-funded handful of dubious sources. The argument is something of a classic: Convince the public that scientists actually don’t agree on climate change, and you can stave off public consensus as well.
In 2013, a University of Queensland Global Change Institute researcher named John Cook and a team of fellow scientists conducted a review of nearly 12,000 papers on climate change between 1991 and 2011. Of the papers that expressed a position on whether humans caused climate change, more than 97% agreed that they did. When Cook and his research team then asked the authors of the papers to rate their positions, 97% maintained that humans caused climate change. The Cook paper has been the most significant measure of consensus on the issue to date.
The science, however, hasn’t stopped the climate denial and consensus-obfuscation campaign that plays out repeatedly in op-eds like this one in the Wall Street Journal. That’s also why, in advance of the upcoming UN climate summit this month, Cook, along with a coalition of climate non-profits called Science Stands, developed an app to “flood” the social media feeds of 16 climate deniers with 8,000 papers from the study’s database. So far, more than 1,200 papers have been tweeted to conservative thinktanks, politicians whose campaigns are funded by the oil and gas industries, and billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.
“The brick wall that we’re faced against to get effective climate action going is a very cynical campaign that’s being waged against science,” explains scientist and Science Stands activist Lucky Tran. “In that climate, just publishing reports is not enough. We have to counter disruption with our own form of disruption.”