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August 22, 2011 

Climate Science References for the Campaign Trail

With climate science again in the news, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) thought it would be helpful to provide a short list of authoritative scientific assessments on climate science, two surveys of scientists, a relevant statement from 18 scientific societies on the threat of a warming world and resources for debunking contrarian arguments. UCS experts are available for additional information or comment upon request.

Recent Climate Assessments

In May 2010, the National Research Council—an arm of the National Academy of Sciences—released the first in a series of reports titled “America’s Climate Choices.” Its report on the state of the science concluded that Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.”

In June 2009, the United States Global Change Research Program—a collaboration among 13 federal science agencies and academics across the country—released an assessment of climate change consequences for our nation. Among its key findings:

  • Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced;
  • Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase;
  • The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles; and
  • Responses involve reducing emissions to limit future warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable.

In July 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its “State of the Climate” report examining 10 major indicators of global climate change.

“The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world,” the report concluded. “Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and tropospheric temperature in the ‘active-weather’ layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere.”

Additionally, climate.gov serves as a portal for relevant federal climate science information, including the latest government data related to climate change.

Surveys of Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

A 2009 survey published in the American Geophysical Union journal EOS found that 97 percent of publishing climate scientists who responded to the survey answered “yes” to the question, “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”

Another 2009 paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, constructed a database of climate researchers and found that 97 to 98 percent were convinced by the evidence that human activity is driving climate change.

 

Statement from Scientific Societies

In October 2009, 18 professional scientific societies issued a joint statement to the Senate regarding climate change:

 “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver,” the organizations wrote, adding that “if we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced. In addition, adaptation will be necessary to address those impacts that are already unavoidable.”

Debunking Flawed Claims Regarding Climate Science

Scientists are sometimes falsely accused of manufacturing science. Such claims largely stem from emails stolen from a British university in 2009. UCS has compiled references for six official and several unofficial investigations that have cleared scientists of wrongdoing.

Skeptical Science is the leading website for debunking spurious claims regarding climate science. The site tackles everything from flawed research papers to conspiracy theories about scientists and is updated with the latest contrarian claims and primary sources that debunk them.

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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