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For the record

100 reasons why global warming is natural, The Daily Express, 15th December 2009

The Daily Express published a front page article 1 with an accompanying report by the European Foundation detailing the “100 reasons why global warming is natural”.  The article quotes Jim McConalogue from the Foundation who suggests the list “demonstrates how tenuous, improper and indeed false the scientific and political claims are for man-made global warming [...] when in fact there is little evidence to support any of these claims”.  The article states that the list includes the controversial claim that there is “no scientific proof that rising levels of greenhouse gases are caused by human activity.”

Here, Professor Paul Hardaker, Royal Metereological Society , responds to some of the points from the list and questions the helpfulness of running such a story on the front page of the Daily Express.

“We know that our climate is warming, we can measure that.  A number of centres around the world, using different data and analysis methods, have shown this.  Since the 1820s we have known that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases warm our atmosphere.  We also know that carbon dioxide levels have risen as a direct consequence of our burning of fossil fuels.  Undoubtedly there is natural variation in our climate.  We can see that from one year to the next and on very long geological timescales, but the warming trend that we have observed over the last 150 years is far more rapid than anything we have seen before and not explainable by natural variation alone.  It is only when we include the much larger effect of our greenhouse gas emissions that we can explain what we observe.

That is not to say we know everything there is to know about our changing climate.  There is uncertainty in how temperature will respond to emissions, but only about the amount of warming, not whether it will warm or not.  We do not yet completely understand how regional rainfall patterns will change in a number of places across the globe, but we know that this will change, and that in itself will bring difficulties to a large number of the global population.  We are unsure of the precise rate at which sea level will rise, but we know that it will continue to rise and that this process will only be reversible on very long timescales.

 

Good science and good scientists welcome challenge, debate and discussion; that’s how we develop a richer level of understanding and it’s a practice that is commonplace within science, but the front page of The Express provided little that could have helped people understand these important and complex issues.”

1 100 reasons why global warming is natural, The Daily Express

Author: Sense About Science

Document type: For The Record

Published: 19 December 2009


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