Report Provides Further Evidence People Cause Climate Change

Posted March 3rd, 2014 at 7:47 pm (UTC-4)

Cover page to new climate change report (Royal  Society/US National Academy of Science)

Cover page to new climate change report (Royal Society/US National Academy of Science)

New evidence suggests climate change is human caused and that if the release of greenhouse gases continues unabated, changes to the world’s climate will greatly exceed those that have taken place so far.

The new joint report from the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, the national science academy of the UK, is called Climate Change: Evidence and Causes.  It predicts Earth’s temperature will rise between 5-to-9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

“As two of the world’s leading scientific bodies, we feel a responsibility to evaluate and explain what is known about climate change, at least the physical side of it, to concerned citizens, educators, decision makers and leaders, and to advance public dialogue about how to respond to the threats of climate change,” said the USNAS President Ralph  Cicerone.

Even if the release of greenhouse gases were stop immediately temperatures would continue to rise, according to the report.

Arctic ice melt impacts nature (Agrant141 via Wikimedia Commons)

Arctic ice melt impacts nature (Agrant141 via Wikimedia Commons)

“If greenhouse gas emissions were to suddenly stop, the earth would not cool to preindustrial levels for thousands of years,” said Inez Fung, the U.S. lead author of the report from the University of California, Berkeley. “The actions of today have long-term effects. Stopping emissions now doesn’t mean we can remove the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. The accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere causes continued rises in temperatures and sea levels.”

The report is written in easy-to-understand English, addresses 20 important issues in a question-and-answer format, and explains which characteristics of climate change are well established and documented as well as those that aren’t which require further investigation.

“Climate change is a dividing issue of our times,” said Paul Nurse, head of the Royal Society. “Policy decisions are made on the world stage. This is a simple but authoritative account of the major issues of climate change. It’s a reliable guide to the science – a guide that’s necessary for an informed debate.”

This visualization shows a running five-year average global temperature, as compared to a baseline average global temperature from 1951-1980. (NASA GISS)

This visualization shows a running five-year average global temperature, as compared to a baseline average global temperature from 1951-1980. (NASA)

According to the report, current atmospheric C02 levels have risen to a level that hasn’t been seen in about 800,000 years. A review of observational data dating back to the mid-19th century has shown a definite long-term warming trend. Researchers have found that, since 1900, Earth’s average surface air temperature has increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit and that much of that rise took place in the mid-1970s.

Measurements made by the American and British teams that prepared the report show the increase of atmospheric C02 has been mostly caused by combustion of fossil fuels and not due to naturally occurring phenomena such as changes in the sun’s output as some have suggested.

Two people brave the extreme cold temperatures in Chicago (wind chills of -40 degrees F) on 1/6/14 when a whirlpool of frigid dense air known as a "polar vortex" descended Monday into much of the U.S. Some scientists suggest the extreme winter weather is a result of climate change. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Two people brave the extreme temperatures in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2014, when a “polar vortex” descended on much of the U.S.(AP)

The reduction in Arctic sea ice, a rise in ocean temperatures as well as changes in nature like the movement of temperature-sensitive species of fish, mammals, insects toward the poles, provide irrefutable evidence of planetary-scale warming, said the report authors.

A number of people living along the East Coast have questioned climate change after being hit with extreme weather conditions this winter brought on by polar vortices. Even with spring only a couple of weeks away, the mid-Atlantic region of the US is being hit today by a major winter storm that has brought with it very cold temperatures as well as treacherous accumulations of snow and ice.

But Fung suggests that climate change may be responsible for the harsh winter weather as well as other forms of extreme weather such as record heat, drought or rainfall.

“A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture so when it rains, there’s more rain,” she said. “Rainfall will be more intense. Heat waves will become more frequent. We expect droughts, when they occur, will be more severe. There will always be cold nights and cold days in this warming trend, but they will be rarer and rarer.”

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

3 responses to “Report Provides Further Evidence People Cause Climate Change”

  1. mememine69 says:

    It’s nothing beyond; “could be” so what scientific consensus are you remaining “believers” believing in? Your “belief” that you wanted this misery to have been real?
    “Believers” can only “believe” and obey science’s 32 year old consensus of nothing beyond; “could be” unless you can find us former “believers” one IPCC warning that says anything beyond; “could be” and says “will be a climate crisis” or is “inevitable” like they say comet hits and evolution are. Know what you are “believing” in; a meaningless consensus of nothing so be happy for your children instead of being so eager to condemn them to your exaggerated greenhouse gas ovens. Who’s the neocon here again?

  2. rwmsrobertw says:

    Sorry, I’ll go with the evidence from the peer reviewed science that says global warming is real and caused by human activity over the ravings of some anonymous Internet troll with no evidence whatsoever.

    The animated graphic above from NASA shows how the globe has been heating up in the last 60 years. Here is some of the evidence that this heating is caused by human activities (adding massive amounts of CO2 that used to be buried in the earth to the atmosphere).

    10 lines of evidence that humans are causing global warming / climate change by burning carbon
    (taken from ) There you will find references to the scientific papers backing these claims, and where available, links to the papers themselves.

    1. Humans are currently emitting around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

    2. Oxygen levels are falling as if carbon is being burned to create carbon dioxide.

    3. Fossil carbon is building up in the atmosphere. (We know this because the two types of carbon have different chemical properties.)

    4. Corals show that fossil carbon has recently risen sharply.

    5. Satellites measure less heat escaping to space at the precise wavelengths which CO2 absorbs.

    6. Surface measurements find this heat is returning to Earth to warm the surface.

    7. An increased greenhouse effect would make nights warm faster than days, and this is what has been observed.

    8. If the warming is due to solar activity, then the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) should warm along with the rest of the atmosphere. But if the warming is due to the greenhouse effect, the stratosphere should cool because of the heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Satellite measurements show that the stratosphere is cooling.

    9. This combination of a warming troposphere and cooling stratosphere should cause the tropopause, which separates them, to rise. This has also been observed.

    10.It was predicted that the ionosphere would shrink, and it is indeed shrinking.

    Please visit to see what is wrong with the arguments of those who think climate change (which includes global warming) is not real.

  3. James Dennis says:

    Last winter blizzard in North America, Asia, the earthquake, the tsunami in Indonesia, which may be related to global warming.