By Brooke Carney, National Sea Grant Office
Dr. Stuart Carlton works as a Healthy Coastal Ecosystems and Social Science Specialist for Texas Sea Grant. His research focuses on the social science of climate change, including public understanding and perception. He works directly with Sea Grant extension agents to increase climate literacy among various stakeholder groups in Texas. “We want to help the public understand the effects of climate change, know there is a lot of good, credible science behind it, and ultimately develop real life, practical steps to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” commented Carlton.
A new study in Environmental Research Letters builds on Carlton’s research to understand scientific consensus on climate change. The study, led by John Cook of University Queensland Global Change Institute and titled “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming“, analyzes the work of seven authors, including Carlton. Each of the authors have previously researched scientific consensus on climate change, all using different methods, and the result is the same for all of them—consensus among scientists on climate change is strong. The researchers not only confirm strong (97%) consensus among scientists that climate change is happening and is human-caused in this paper, they also show a strong correlation between climate expertise and consensus. The higher the level of expertise on climate change, the higher the level of consensus.
“Despite the strong consensus among scientists, public understanding is still limited. This study allows us to say, ‘let’s stop talking about the debate among scientists, and let’s get to work helping the public understand how they can plan for and mitigate impacts,’” said Carlton.
Carlton’s previous research examined consensus on climate change across all bio-physical sciences. He found 93% scientists in the fields of biology, chemistry, geology, and other related fields agree that human-caused climate change is happening. His work also found that scientists across many disciplines believe climate science is credible and mature.
Sea Grant is a partnership program between federal government, universities, and other local partners. The 33 Sea Grant programs in the United States, including Puerto Rico, Lake Champlain, and Guam identify locally relevant issues related to coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources, conduct research based on community needs, and work directly with communities to implement solutions through extension, education, and communication.