For immediate release: Tuesday 24 February 2015
 
Correction: Thursday 26 February 2015
 
Our press release on February 24th understated the portion of experts believing average global temperature is a good indicator of planetary health as 41% instead of 48%, and vice versa for the portion believing it is not. This error has been corrected below.

Climate scientists call for global cap on carbon emissions
 

San Francisco, CA. —“A global goal for average CO2 concentrations in 2030 or 2050 must be agreed on and translated into specific emissions and policy efforts.”
 
This was the conclusion of a comment article, recently published in Nature. The latest results from a Vision Prize poll, released today, 24 February, have shown that a majority (69%) of surveyed climate experts support these claims—the respondents agree that relatively short-term goals for average CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere need to be agreed upon and translated into policy.
 
In addition to this, a strong majority of the climate experts (93%) agree that CO2-emitting infrastructure will continue to expand if uninterrupted by governmental policy. Indeed, a paper in Environmental Research Letters has indicated that without a climate policy, the abundant use of natural gas, which is a lower carbon fuel than coal, would actually boost electricity consumption. A majority of the Vision Prize expert participants (68%) agree that even under favorable assumptions, abundant natural gas will have little impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
 
The results come as policymakers are set to meet towards the end of 2015 at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris to negotiate a new global agreement on climate stabilization, and university endowment and pension funds are under pressure to divest from the fossil fuel industry.  
 
“Here’s the dilemma for investors and policymakers,” says Peter Kriss, Director of Research for the Vision Prize poll of climate scientists. “It is known that carbon dioxide emissions cause the Earth to warm. If the strong consensus of our scientific experts is correct, then most of the coal, oil and gas reserves of publicly-listed companies are ‘unburnable’. (See, for example, CarbonTracker.) The existential questions for investors and policymakers become: ‘Which countries and companies, if any, will give up burning fossil fuels, and when?’”
 
The results from the poll revealed that there was some disagreement as to whether average global temperature is a good indicator of planetary health (48% believe it is while 41% believe it is not), whilst there was little consensus over alternative measures—approximately half (56%) believe that greenhouse gas concentrations are a better measure, and approximately half (53%) believe that ocean heat content is a better measure.
 
“This round of results suggests that while there is debate as to which indicators of planetary health are best, there is much more agreement on the necessary actions and the implications of inaction,” says Kriss.
 
Vision Prize asks expert panelists for their answer to each question, as well as how they believe their peers will respond. Poll participants are pre-screened to ensure they have relevant expertise. As with previous Vision Prize polls, the experts surveyed agreed with each other more than they thought they would, with the most common views tending to be even more common than expected. 97 of 340 registered expert participants responded to this poll.
 
The complete findings from the latest Vision Prize poll, including confidence intervals, can be viewed here — http://poll.visionprize.com/
 
ENDS
 
Notes to editors
 
Contact:
 
For more information, please contact Peter Kriss, Director of Research for Vision Prize, email: pkriss@visionprize.com  

Vision Prize®
 
Vision Prize® is a polling platform for capturing meta-knowledge – knowledge about what people know. In addition to assessing the views of scientists, Vision Prize asks its expert participants to predict the views of their scientific colleagues. This approach gives new insight into the level of scientific consensus on various issues, which in some cases may be just as important as knowing the majority view. Charity gift cards — our way of thanking panelists for their participation &mash; are awarded as prizes for exceptional meta-knowledge.
 
Vision Prize is a nonprofit research partnership. It operates in collaboration with IOP Publishing’s scientific community website, environmentalresearchweb, and is affiliated with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The research program is strictly nonpartisan — we are not an advocacy organization. For more information, go to http://www.visionprize.com/.

environmentalresearchweb environmentalresearchweb is a unique site for the entire environmental science community. It provides analysis and commentary on all areas of environmental research, including policy and sustainable technology. News and talking point articles are integrated with research articles from our sister journal Environmental Research Letters.