Climate at a Glance: Consensus

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Key Takeaways:

  • Facts and scientific evidence always trump a show of hands.
  • A majority of scientists (including skeptics) believe the Earth is warming and humans are playing a role, but a strong majority of scientists are not very worried about it.
  • The key debate between alarmists and skeptics is the issue of impacts, not whether we are causing some warming. The only consensus that matters is whether scientists are very worried about climate change, and most scientists are not very worried.

Short Summary:

Science is the evaluation of evidence, not a mere vote or show of hands. Throughout the course of human history, there have been many periods during which a majority of scientists have wrongly concluded all sorts of erroneous assertions about the natural world and human beings. It was the scientific method, not consensus, that has allowed our
understanding of the universe to expand.

Nevertheless, to the extent people claim a scientific consensus exists about climate change and its potential dangers, there has been only a single scientific organization whose full membership has been polled on climate change issues, the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and the evidence shows AMS members are not deeply concerned about the effects of climate change.

Although surveys of AMS members show two-thirds believe humans are causing a majority of recent warming,1
the polling results reveal only about 30 percent are very worried about it. And almost as many—28 percent—
said they are “not at all worried” or “not very worried.” A plurality of respondents (42 percent) reported they
are only “somewhat worried,” which would seem to indicate they would only support monitoring the scientific
evidence and perhaps implementing some modest, cost-effective programs to deal with the effects of climate
change—not a total or near-total overhaul of the global economy, as so many climate activists have suggested.

Further, it is important to note that 40 percent of AMS members believe climate change impacts have been primarily beneficial or equally mixed between beneficial and harmful, and only half said they expect the impacts to be entirely or primarily harmful over the next 50 years.

Finally, there have been numerous prominent scientists and scientific organizations that have openly and consistently rejected the view that humans are causing a climate change catastrophe, including climate experts with experience working at MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and Penn, among many other well respected academic institutions.
Others have served as official state climatologists or have worked for important government agencies, such as NASA and NOAA.3 Among the many influential scientists who have questioned the causes and/or consequences of the alleged climate change “consensus” are several giants of the scientific world of the past half-century, such as Freeman Dyson, S. Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen, and Will Happer.


  1. Center for Climate Change Communication, A 2016 Survey of American Meteorological
    Society Members About Climate Change, George Mason University, March 2016,
  2. James Taylor, “NAS Climate Panel Fails the Laugh Test,” Forbes, May 18, 2011, https://
  3. Craig D. Idso, Robert M. Carter, and S. Fred Singer, Why Scientists Disagree About
    Global Warming (Arlington Heights, IL: The Heartland Institute, 2016), https://

Climate At A Glance is a Project of The Heartland Institute