The Scottish Climate & Energy Forum has been conducting a survey on the background and attitudes of participants to online climate discussions. The survey had a massive response which will take time and resource to process. However initial analysis already shows that the actual views and backgrounds of participants are in sharp contrast with some high-profile statements being made about the participants. Therefore I felt we should make these initial results known as soon as practical to avoid further damage, both to the reputation of those involved in the online debate, as well as those making the unfounded and presumably mistaken accusations of “denial”.
As such, I am releasing the following statement regarding the survey.
A sceptical consensus: the science is right but catastrophic global warming is not going to happen
A recent survey of those participating in on-line forums showed that most of the 5,000 respondents were experienced engineers, scientists and IT professionals most degree qualified and around a third with post graduate qualifications. The survey, carried out by the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum, asked respondents for their views on CO2 and the effect it might have on global temperatures. The results were surprising. 96% of respondents said that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with 79% attributing the increase to man-made sources. 81% agreed that global temperatures had increased over the 20th century and 81% also agreed that CO2 is a warming gas. But only 2% believed that increases in CO2 would cause catastrophic global warming.
So what's going on?
Above all, these highly qualified people - experts in their own spheres - look at the published data and trust their own analysis, so their views match the available data. They agree that the climate warmed over the 20th century (this has been measured), that CO2 levels are increasing (this too has been measured) and that CO2 is a warming gas (it helps trap heat in the atmosphere and the effects can be measured). Beyond this, the survey found that 98% of respondents believe that the climate varies naturally and that increasing CO2 levels won't cause catastrophic warming.
Overwhelmingly participants in this large scale survey support the science, however this is not how they have been portrayed in the media and this has led to deep and bitter divides between those who hold different viewpoints. This debate should be based on the evidence and that not only includes the scientific evidence on the climate, but also the evidence of the real participants involved in the debate. Given the huge number of responses and detail of questions a full assessment will take up to one year to complete. This is a huge commitment from an organisation that has no outside funding and is reliant on one full-time volunteer (Mike Haseler). We will therefore be approaching the Scottish and UK government with a view to obtaining funding to complete the analysis.