How settled is the science

Trying to look at the degree of consensus on the science of climate change caused a visit to Google Scholar. Anyone can use this search engine to search for scientific articles and papers. Of course, it takes a lot of work to read all the latest papers and search out the amount of agreement. In any case the weight one gives a particular paper will be to some degree subjective as it depends on the understanding you already have and a personal assessment of the quality of the work.

A very simple way to look at the development of climate science is just to count the number of papers returned under the search used.

The following searches were restricted to only 2012 (any time period can be used). A search for the words “climate science” resulted in 81,300 documents (for 2012 only). A bit of digging into the list indicates that the range of issues being studied is very wide:- from the impact of climate change on the forest nitrogen cycle to stastical methods appropriate for paleoclimate studies.

Refining the search down to ‘global warming’ gave 28,800 documents in 2012 and to ‘climate forcing’ gave 8,500 documents (‘again just this year).

It is clear there is a great depth in the range of research going on at present. What is not present in the papers looked at (from a quick browse through the lists) are papers looking at the basic question of “is recent warming driven by human emissions”. This is esentially because scientists have already accepted there is not much need to revisit this question. It was firmly established years ago. What can be seen in this list is papers looking at the earth’s sensitivity to rising green house gases. Most of these support the consensus that we are heading for at least 2 degrees and possibly much more under business as usual.

Esentially, the research since the 2007 IPCC report has not undermined the conclusions of that report. If anything, the 2007 report has been found to be conservative. What else would you expect from a report where the wording is agreed by 120 countries (including a review by government bureaucrats). Thus countries such as Saudi Arabia have to agree to he text.

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