Royal Society launches new short guide to the science of climate change

30 September 2010

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has today launched a new short guide to the science of climate change.  The guide has been written to summarise the evidence and to clarify the levels of confidence associated with the current scientific understanding of climate change.  It makes clear what is well-known and established about the climate system, what is widely agreed but with some debate about details, and what is still not well understood.

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has today launched a new short guide to the science of climate change.  The guide has been written to summarise the evidence and to clarify the levels of confidence associated with the current scientific understanding of climate change.  It makes clear what is well-known and established about the climate system, what is widely agreed but with some debate about details, and what is still not well understood.

Climate change: a summary of the science, describes how and why the earth is currently warming, and explains the wide range of independent measurements and observations which underpin this understanding. It shows that there is strong evidence that over the last half century, the earth’s warming has been caused largely by human activity.  It also explains the uncertainty involved in predicting the size of future temperature increases. There are many potentially serious consequences of climate change, so that important decisions need to be made. The guide concludes that, as in many other areas, policy choices will have to be made in the absence of perfect knowledge, but that the scientific evidence is an essential part of public reasoning in this complex and challenging area.

John Pethica, Vice-President of the Royal Society and Chair of the working group that wrote the document said: “Climate change is an important issue affecting everyone. Much of the public debate on climate change is polarised at present, which can make it difficult to get a good overview of the science. This guide explains where the science is clear and established, and also where it is less certain. It is not a simple guide, as this is not a simple issue.  This summary has been produced for all who want to understand the full range of the scientific evidence.”

The guide has been prepared by leading international scientists, mostly drawn from the Fellowship of the Society, and it is based on very extensive published scientific work.  The working group drew on input from a wide range of experts and the document was reviewed by both Fellows and others with a broad range of relevant expertise and experience.

The guide is available for download here.

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