On Finding Reliable Information
and the Scientific Consensus
on Climate Change
and Global Warming
National and international science academies and professional societies have assessed the current scientific opinion on climate change, in particular recent global warming. These assessments have largely followed or endorsed the IPCC position that "An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities".
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007
..human actions are "very likely" the cause of global warming, meaning a 90% or greater probability.
"The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, IPCC's purpose is to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action, primarily on the basis of peer-reviewed and published scientific literature. In its most recent assessment, IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities: "Human activities ... are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents ... that absorb or scatter radiant energy. ... [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" ."
Joint science academies’ statement 2007
In preparation for the 2007 G8 summit, the national science academies of the G8+5 nations issued a declaration referencing the position of the 2005 joint science academies' statement, and acknowledging the confirmation of their previous conclusion by recent research. Following the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the declaration states:
It is unequivoval that the climate is changing, and it is very likely that this is predominantely caused by the increasing human interference with the atmosphere. These changes will transform the environmental conditions on Earth unless counter-measures are taken.
Joint Science Academies' statement, 2005
"We recognise the international scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)."
U.S. National Research Council, 2001
In 2001 the Committee on the Science of Climate Change of the National Research Council published Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions. This report explicitly endorses the IPCC view of attribution of recent climate change as representing the view of the scientific community:
The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century... The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.
American Meteorological Society
The American Meteorological Society (AMS) statement adopted by their council in 2003 said:
There is now clear evidence that the mean annual temperature at the Earth's surface, averaged over the entire globe, has been increasing in the past 200 years. There is also clear evidence that the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased over the same period. In the past decade, significant progress has been made toward a better understanding of the climate system and toward improved projections of long-term climate change... Human activities have become a major source of environmental change. Of great urgency are the climate consequences of the increasing atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases... Because greenhouse gases continue to increase, we are, in effect, conducting a global climate experiment, neither planned nor controlled, the results of which may present unprecedented challenges to our wisdom and foresight as well as have significant impacts on our natural and societal systems.
"The nature of science is such that there is rarely total agreement among scientists. Individual scientific statements and papers—the validity of some of which has yet to be assessed adequately—can be exploited in the policy debate and can leave the impression that the scientific community is sharply divided on issues where there is, in reality, a strong scientific consensus. The IPCC was established ... to fulfill the critical role of providing objective scientific, technical, and economic assessments of the current state of knowledge about various aspects of climate change. IPCC assessment reports are prepared at approximately five-year intervals by a large international group of experts who represent the broad range of expertise and perspectives relevant to the issues. The reports strive to reflect a consensus evaluation of the results of the full body of peer-reviewed research. ... They provide an analysis of what is known and not known, the degree of consensus, and some indication of the degree of confidence that can be placed on the various statements and conclusions."
American Geophysical Union
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) statement adopted by the society in 2003 declares its virtual certainty that rising levels of greenhouse gases will cause the global surface temperature to be warmer:
Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth's history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century.
Human impacts on the climate system include increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and their substitutes, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.), air pollution, increasing concentrations of airborne particles, and land alteration. A particular concern is that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide may be rising faster than at any time in Earth's history, except possibly following rare events like impacts from large extraterrestrial objects.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have increased since the mid-1700s through fossil fuel burning and changes in land use, with more than 80% of this increase occurring since 1900. Moreover, research indicates that increased levels of carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. It is virtually certain that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will cause global surface climate to be warmer.
American Institute of Physics
The Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics endorsed the AGU statement on human-induced climate change:
The Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics has endorsed a position statement on climate change adopted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Council in December 2003.
American Astronomical Society
The American Astronomical Society has endorsed the AGU statement: In endorsing the "Human Impacts on Climate" statement, the AAS recognizes the collective expertise of the AGU in scientific subfields central to assessing and understanding global change, and acknowledges the strength of agreement among our AGU colleagues that the global climate is changing and human activities are contributing to that change.
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science stated, "The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society."
"The conclusions in this statement reflect the scientific consensus represented by, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the Joint National Academies' statement."
Geological Society of America
"The Geological Society of America (GSA) supports the scientific conclusions that Earth’s climate is changing; the climate changes are due in part to human activities; and the probable consequences of the climate changes will be significant and blind to geopolitical boundaries. Furthermore, the potential implications of global climate change and the time scale over which such changes will likely occur require active, effective, long-term planning."
American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society stated, "There is now general agreement among scientific experts that the recent warming trend is real (and particularly strong within the past 20 years), that most of the observed warming is likely due to increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and that climate change could have serious adverse effects by the end of this century. Current debates focus on the extent to which humans may be altering the pattern of natural change and appropriate policy responses. (...) The greatest challenges facing the global community include understanding how the global climate system works and how our own activities may be influencing it, as well as undertaking responsible actions to protect that system for our children. (...) The overwhelming balance of evidence indicates that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the prudent and responsible course of action at this time. Although vigorous climate research is certainly needed to reduce uncertainties and to identify potential adverse effects, it should not forestall prudent action now to address the issue."
US National Academy of Science
"In the judgment of most climate scientists, Earth’s warming in recent decades has been caused primarily by human activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. ... On climate change, [the National Academies’ reports] have assessed consensus findings on the science..."
The National Climatic Data Center has long served the Nation as a national resource for climate information. NCDC develops national and global data sets used by government and the private sector. NCDC's climate data has been used in agriculture, air quality, construction, education, energy, engineering, forestry, health, insurance, landscape design, livestock management, manufacturing, recreation and tourism, retailing, transportation, and water resources management. The center's data fulfills needs ranging from building codes to power plant and space shuttle design.
On Finding Reliable Information