British science academy publishes climate change guide

30th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's national science academy released a new guide on climate change Thursday, setting out what is known and what remains unclear after a series of scandals about global warming research.

The Royal Society guide says there is "strong evidence" that changes in the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere caused by human activity -- notably a rise in carbon dioxide -- are the dominant cause of recent global warming.

But it also outlines the debates that continue to rage, including over the effect of variations in the energy emitted by the Sun, and says several areas are not well understood, including how the ice sheets on Greenland and Western Antarctica are melting.

Despite the "absence of perfect knowledge", however, it says world governments must act, warning: "The potential impacts of climate change are sufficiently serious that important decisions will need to be made."

A previous Royal Society guide, published in 2007, was organised as a point-by-point rebuttal of the "misleading" arguments about climate change, including that computer models are unreliable.

According to the BBC, this was updated partly as a result of complaints by 43 of the society's members, who were concerned it was too strident.

The new 19-page guide was published after a series of rows dented the credibility of established climate science.

The UN climate change panel which won a Nobel prize after a landmark 2007 report into global warming admitted it had exaggerated the speed at which Himalayan glaciers were melting, while a leading British research centre was accused of manipulating its data, although it strongly denied this.

"Much of the public debate on climate change is polarised at present, which can make it difficult to get a good overview of the science," said John Pethica, the Royal Society's vice-president who helped compile the guide.

"This guide explains where the science is clear and established, and also where it is less certain."

The guide, which can be found at, has been prepared by leading international scientists, most of them fellows of the society, and is based on extensive published works.

© 2010 AFP

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