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Science of Global Warming



As a result of an enormous scientific effort over the past 10-15 years to better understand the climate system and its relationship to human activities, there now is a growing consensus among mainstream scientists about the reality of global warming. As Dr. Robert Watson, then Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in 2001,

"The overwhelming majority of scientific experts, whilst recognizing that scientific uncertainties exist, nonetheless believe that human-induced climate change is already occurring and that future change is inevitable."

This captures the conclusions of the most recent comprehensive assessment of the state of climate change science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The UN-sponsored, international body of scientists is charged with synthesizing every five years what the scientific community has learned about our changing climate and its impacts on people and the environment.

The findings of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report ("Climate Change 2001") unequivocally paint a collective picture of a warming world. The report forms the authoritative new benchmark of what is known about climate change science and represents an unprecedented consensus among hundreds of climate change scientists from all over the world.

UCS agrees with the world's leading climate scientists that the Earth's temperature is rising and that its climate has changed over the last century. The scientific consensus is clear that the rise in temperature and change in climate are being caused in part by human activities. (See Related Links.)

Mainstream media are beginning to reflect this scientific consensus. But after a decade of controversial reporting and public debate, some skepticism lingers in the public at large and is still rampant among industry groups and their proponents who fear adverse economic impacts from taking action on global warming. While their main tactic now is to dismiss potential solutions to the problem—in particular the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—climate skeptics continue to attack the science in order to undermine an essential and rational basis for cost-effective, sustainable action on this global problem.

But what does it mean to have scientific consensus about a future that is never certain in a world so utterly complex?

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