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Climate change controversies (HTML) Booklet (.pdf)

The Royal Society has produced this overview of the current state of scientific understanding of climate change to help non-experts better understand some of the debates in this complex area of science.

This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of global warming. Instead, the Society – as the UK’s national academy of science – responds here to eight key arguments that are currently in circulation by setting out, in simple terms, where the weight of scientific evidence lies.

  • Misleading argument 1: The Earth’s climate is always changing and this is nothing to do with humans.
  • Misleading argument 2: Carbon dioxide only makes up a small part of the atmosphere and so cannot be responsible for global warming.
  • Misleading argument 3: Rises in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the result of increased temperatures, not the other way round.
  • Misleading argument 4: Observations of temperatures taken by weather balloons and satellites do not support the theory of global warming.
  • Misleading argument 5: Computer models which predict the future climate are unreliable and based on a series of assumptions.
  • Misleading argument 6: It’s all to do with the Sun – for example, there is a strong link between increased temperatures on Earth with the number of sunspots on the Sun.
  • Misleading argument 7: The climate is actually affected by cosmic rays.
  • Misleading argument 8: The scale of the negative effects of climate change is often overstated and there is no need for urgent action.

Our scientific understanding of climate change is sufficiently sound to make us highly confident that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. Science moves forward by challenge and debate and this will continue. However, none of the current criticisms of climate science, nor the alternative explanations of global warming are well enough founded to make not taking any action the wise choice. The science clearly points to the need for nations to take urgent steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, as much and as fast as possible, to reduce the more severe aspects of climate change. We must also prepare for the impacts of climate change, some of which are already inevitable.
This document was compiled with the help of the Royal Society Climate Change Advisory Group and other leading experts.

26 Climate Change Myths from New Scientist

• Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter

• We can’t do anything about climate change

• The ‘hockey stick’ graph has been proven wrong

• Chaotic systems are not predictable

• We can’t trust computer models of climate

• They predicted global cooling in the 1970s

• It’s been far warmer in the past, what’s the big deal?

• It’s too cold where I live – warming will be great

• Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans

• It’s all down to cosmic rays

• CO2 isn’t the most important greenhouse gas

• The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warmin

• Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming

• The oceans are cooling

• The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming

• It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in Englan

• We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age

• Warming will cause an ice age in Europe

• Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming

• Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell

• Mars and Pluto are warming too

• Many leading scientists question climate change

• It’s all a conspiracy

• Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming

• Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production

• Polar bear numbers are increasing

The following is an excerpt from an article debunking the film The Great Global Warming Swindle. Which turned out to be, itself, a colossal swindle.

Film on Global Warming Is Challenged
Wednesday April 25, 2007 3:22 pm ET
By Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press Writer
Scientists Demand Changes to Global Warming Skeptic’s Film

LONDON (AP) — A group of British climate scientists is demanding changes to a skeptical documentary about global warming, saying there are grave errors in the program billed as a response to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“The Great Global Warming Swindle” aired on British television in March and is coming out soon on DVD. It argues that man-made emissions have a marginal impact on the world’s climate and warming can better be explained by changing patterns of solar activity. An open letter sent Tuesday by 38 scientists, including the former heads of Britain’s academy of sciences and Britain’s weather office, called on producer Wag TV to remove what it called “major misrepresentations” from the film before the DVD release — a demand its director said was tantamount to censorship.

Bob Ward, the former spokesman for the Royal Society, Britain’s academy of science, and one of the letter’s signatories, said director Mark Durkin made a “long catalog of fundamental and profound mistakes” — including the claim that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than humans, and that the Earth’s atmosphere was warmer during the Middle Ages than it is today.

“Free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements,” he said. “Somebody has to stand up for the public interest here.”


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