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|UK's 'definitive voice of science'
hopes guide will counter misunderstanding and bogus claims about
man-made global warming.
The Royal Society, the UK's leading scientific establishment, today
publishes its own layman's guide to the science of climate change,
in the hope of countering the confusion and inaccurate claims that
continue to surround the topic.
The new guide – Climate Change: A Summary of the Science – seeks to
cut through the confusion by summarising the degree of consensus and
depth of understanding surrounding different aspects of the science
of global warming caused by human activity.
The report, written by a panel of prominent scientists chaired by
Professor John Pethica, Royal Society vice president, breaks down
the subject into three sections: aspects on which there is "wide
agreement", "a wide consensus but continuing debate and discussion"
and those which are "not well understood".
The document entirely supports the mainstream scientific view of
man-made climate change as summarised by the UN's climate science
body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In previous
years, the Royal Society has lent its weight to joint communiqués on
climate change issued by leading science academies around the world,
and these have even extended to making policy suggestions, such as
calling on world leaders to agree emission reductions at the climate
change summit held in Copenhagen in December.
The Royal Society's new report, by contrast, limits itself entirely
to the physical science of climate change, and it is careful to lay
out every qualification and uncertainty. But Pethica stresses that
this approach does not signify an acceptance of criticisms that
scientists had overstated their case in the past. "If the report
sounds cautious, that's because the IPCC is cautious … There is no
change in the science."
Solitaire Townsend, the communication specialist in sustainable
development, said: "The Royal Society has for hundreds of years been
the definitive voice of science – and unlike the IPCC it is not a
politically appointed body. The new guide should have a strong
impact on the UK, where policymakers, business leaders and others do
pay attention to Royal Society briefings. However, it's less likely
to change views in China, America and elsewhere."
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham
Research Institute, described the new guide as "excellent" and "an
authoritative summary of the current state of knowledge". However,
he stressed concern that two of the Royal Society fellows listed as
contributors to the early stages of the report are also involved
with Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation, which, Ward
claims, "campaigns against climate researchers and promotes
inaccurate and misleading information about climate change".
Although public concern about the impacts of global warming remains
high in the UK, several polls taken in the past year have suggested
a rise in number of people who are uncertain or sceptical about the
scientific basis of man-made global warming.
This shift in opinion could be related to a range of factors,
including the very cold winter, the Climategate affair involving
leaked emails from scientists at the University of East Anglia, and
one well-publicised error in the most recent scientific assessment
by the IPCC.