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'97 Hours of Consensus' seeks to close the gap on public perception about climate change

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 4:19 PM - Time and time again we hear how the vast majority of climate scientists - 97 per cent of them to be more precise - are in agreement about the facts that the Earth is accumulating more heat these days, the reason for it is the excess carbon dioxide being dumped into our atmosphere, and the ultimate source of all that excess CO2 is fossil fuel burning and deforestation. However, despite that overwhelming consensus, apparently the general public believe that agreement is closer to a 50-50 split. In an effort to close this 'consensus gap' between the scientists and the public, a new Twitter campaign called '97 Hours of Consensus' has started up this week.

Over a total of 97 hours, John Cook, a climate communication researcher who runs the Skeptical Science website, is presenting a "who's who" of 97 climate scientists from around the world, one representing each percentage point of the actual consensus on the science. Each scientist is drawn as a caricature, accompanied by a quote taken from their works or supplied by them to demonstrate their part in the overall consensus.

Here's just a small representation of the #97Hours caricatures so far, a little over halfway through the event:

Kicking off the list is Professor Michael E. Mann, from PennState University, the originator of the now famous Hockey Stick graph that reveals the influence of global warming so well.

Heidi Cullen, chief scientist for Climate Central, discusses just why this consensus exists.

Matthew England, a climate change researcher at the University of South Wales, leads us through the entire argument, step by step.

Prof. Ann Henderson-Sellers, a leading climate scientist from Sydney's Macquarie University talks about the current focus on any uncertainty that does exist these days, and the effects of the 'skeptical' community.

Dr. Penny Whetton, who researches climate impacts and risks at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, outlines just what risks we're facing by ignoring this problem.

Prof. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate researcher at UC - San Diego, emphasizes why it's important to act on climate change as soon as possible.

Along with this overwhelming consensus of climate scientists on the realities of global warming and the climate change that is resulting from it, there are attempts to derail the conversation by stating that 'science is about evidence, not consensus.'

However, the scientific consensus about climate change is not an opinion poll. It's not a vote. It's not about personal feelings or beliefs. This is a consensus of the evidence. The scientists who are part of this 97 per cent consensus have seen the mountain of scientific evidence, from all over the globe, and that evidence has guided their perception of what's going on.

Ask these scientists and you'll very likely find that there is an equal consensus (although probably closer to 100%) that they would prefer that they were wrong ... that the excess carbon dioxide wasn't a problem ... that our planet wasn't accumulating heat at record rates ... and that extreme weather events weren't on the rise.

The list above is but a small sample of the full 97 Hours of Consensus that Cooke and the Consensus Project are posting. Check out the interactive page, pictured at the top of this article and accessible on the Skeptical Science website (click here), to see each scientist as they show up, and click on the others in the display to see what they have to say. You can also follow the event on Twitter, by checking out the hashtag #97Hours.

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