Climate change

Climate change continues to be a subject of intense public and political debate. Because of the level of interest in the topic the Royal Society has produced a new guide to the science of climate change. The guide summarises the current scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers highlighting the areas where the science is well established, where there is still some debate, and where substantial uncertainties remain. The document was prepared by a working group chaired by Professor John Pethica, Vice President of the Royal Society and was approved by the Royal Society Council. The guide is available for download here.

The Royal Society held a two-day Discussion Meeting in March 2010 on Handling uncertainty in science.

The Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI) was launched in March 2010 to ensure strict governance for solar radiation management (SRM) geoengineering. The initiative will be undertaken this year by the Royal Society, in partnership with the TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).In February 2010, the Royal Society held a two-day Discussion Meeting on the subject of Greenhouse gases in the Earth system: setting the agenda to 2030.

In February 2010, the Royal Society agreed to provide advice to the University of East Anglia in identifying assessors to conduct an independent external reappraisal of the Climatic Research Unit’s key publications. The names being put forward by the Society will be acting as individuals, not representatives of the Society and the Society will have no oversight of this independent review.

In December 2009 the Council of the Royal Society published a statement to coincide with the Copenhagen climate negotiations, Preventing dangerous climate change, highlighting the need for a global agreement. The statement discussed some of the policy options necessary for a strong agreement for preventing dangerous climate change.

In November 2009 a joint Royal Society - NERC - Met Office statement on the science of climate change was also issued. This statement focused on the scientific evidence underpinning calls for action at the Copenhagen negotiations.

Geoengineering the climate: science, governance and uncertainty, September 2009. Chaired by Professor John Shepherd FRS. Provides a detailed assessment of the various methods of geoengineering, and considers the potential efficiency and unintended consequences they may pose.

Background

It is certain that increased greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and from land use change lead to a warming of climate, and it is very likely that these green house gases are the dominant cause of the global warming that has been taking place over the last 50 years.

Whilst the extent of climate change is often expressed in a single figure – global temperature – the effects of climate change (such as temperature, precipitation and the frequency of extreme weather events) will vary greatly from place to place.

Increasing atmospheric CO2 also leads to ocean acidification which risks profound impacts on many marine ecosystems and in turn the societies which depend on them.

The Society has worked on the issue of climate change for many years to further the understanding of this issue. These activities have been informed by decades of publicly available, peer-reviewed studies by thousands of scientists across a wide range of disciplines. Climate science, like any other scientific discipline, develops through vigorous debates between experts, but there is an overwhelming consensus regarding its fundamentals. Climate science has a firm basis in physics and is supported by a wealth of evidence from real world observations.

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