The physical science behind climate change

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For a scientist studying climate change, 'eureka' moments are unusually rare. Instead progress is generally made by a painstaking piecing together of evidence from every new temperature measurement, satellite sounding or climate-model experiment. Data get checked and rechecked, ideas tested over and over again. Do the observations fit the predicted changes? Could there be some alternative explanation? Good climate scientists, like all good scientists, want to ensure that the highest standards of proof apply to everything they discover. And the evidence of change has mounted as climate records have grown longer, as our understanding of the climate system has improved ... continued below

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Collins, William; Collins, William; Colman, Robert; Haywood, James; Manning, Martin R. & Mote, Philip July 1, 2007.

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For a scientist studying climate change, 'eureka' moments are unusually rare. Instead progress is generally made by a painstaking piecing together of evidence from every new temperature measurement, satellite sounding or climate-model experiment. Data get checked and rechecked, ideas tested over and over again. Do the observations fit the predicted changes? Could there be some alternative explanation? Good climate scientists, like all good scientists, want to ensure that the highest standards of proof apply to everything they discover. And the evidence of change has mounted as climate records have grown longer, as our understanding of the climate system has improved and as climate models have become ever more reliable. Over the past 20 years, evidence that humans are affecting the climate has accumulated inexorably, and with it has come ever greater certainty across the scientific community in the reality of recent climate change and the potential for much greater change in the future. This increased certainty is starkly reflected in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the fourth in a series of assessments of the state of knowledge on the topic, written and reviewed by hundreds of scientists worldwide. The panel released a condensed version of the first part of the report, on the physical science basis of climate change, in February. Called the 'Summary for Policymakers,' it delivered to policymakers and ordinary people alike an unambiguous message: scientists are more confident than ever that humans have interfered with the climate and that further human-induced climate change is on the way. Although the report finds that some of these further changes are now inevitable, its analysis also confirms that the future, particularly in the longer term, remains largely in our hands--the magnitude of expected change depends on what humans choose to do about greenhouse gas emissions. The physical science assessment focuses on four topics: drivers of climate change, changes observed in the climate system, understanding cause-and-effect relationships, and projection of future changes. Important advances in research into all these areas have occurred since the IPCC assessment in 2001. In the pages that follow, we lay out the key findings that document the extent of change and that point to the unavoidable conclusion that human activity is driving it.

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  • Journal Name: Scientific American; Journal Volume: 297; Journal Issue: 2; Related Information: Journal Publication Date: 2007

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  • Report No.: LBNL-175E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 927137
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc893707

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • July 1, 2007

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • Sept. 29, 2017, 5:24 p.m.

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Collins, William; Collins, William; Colman, Robert; Haywood, James; Manning, Martin R. & Mote, Philip. The physical science behind climate change, article, July 1, 2007; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc893707/: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.