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Royal Society's climate change guide cuts confusion out of the hard science - 30 Sept 2010  

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UK's 'definitive voice of science' hopes guide will counter misunderstanding and bogus claims about man-made global warming.
The Royal Society, the UK's leading scientific establishment, today publishes its own layman's guide to the science of climate change, in the hope of countering the confusion and inaccurate claims that continue to surround the topic.

The new guide – Climate Change: A Summary of the Science – seeks to cut through the confusion by summarising the degree of consensus and depth of understanding surrounding different aspects of the science of global warming caused by human activity.

The report, written by a panel of prominent scientists chaired by Professor John Pethica, Royal Society vice president, breaks down the subject into three sections: aspects on which there is "wide agreement", "a wide consensus but continuing debate and discussion" and those which are "not well understood".

The document entirely supports the mainstream scientific view of man-made climate change as summarised by the UN's climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In previous years, the Royal Society has lent its weight to joint communiqués on climate change issued by leading science academies around the world, and these have even extended to making policy suggestions, such as calling on world leaders to agree emission reductions at the climate change summit held in Copenhagen in December.

The Royal Society's new report, by contrast, limits itself entirely to the physical science of climate change, and it is careful to lay out every qualification and uncertainty. But Pethica stresses that this approach does not signify an acceptance of criticisms that scientists had overstated their case in the past. "If the report sounds cautious, that's because the IPCC is cautious … There is no change in the science."
Solitaire Townsend, the communication specialist in sustainable development, said: "The Royal Society has for hundreds of years been the definitive voice of science – and unlike the IPCC it is not a politically appointed body. The new guide should have a strong impact on the UK, where policymakers, business leaders and others do pay attention to Royal Society briefings. However, it's less likely to change views in China, America and elsewhere."

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute, described the new guide as "excellent" and "an authoritative summary of the current state of knowledge". However, he stressed concern that two of the Royal Society fellows listed as contributors to the early stages of the report are also involved with Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation, which, Ward claims, "campaigns against climate researchers and promotes inaccurate and misleading information about climate change".

Although public concern about the impacts of global warming remains high in the UK, several polls taken in the past year have suggested a rise in number of people who are uncertain or sceptical about the scientific basis of man-made global warming.
This shift in opinion could be related to a range of factors, including the very cold winter, the Climategate affair involving leaked emails from scientists at the University of East Anglia, and one well-publicised error in the most recent scientific assessment by the IPCC.

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Source: Guardian