There is a befuddling paradox surrounding what we believe about this issue. There is a huge body of scientific analysis that has been amassing over the past few decades, which overwhelmingly points the finger at us. This continuous river of evidence is growing and strengthening.
Five international reports have been written collating and reviewing thousands of published research papers, by a team of leading scientists around the world that make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC now state with 95% confidence that we are the cause of the observed increase in global temperature. The general physical principles were proven by John Tyndall way back in 1861, who showed that water vapour and other greenhouse gases cause atmospheric warming. This blanket has brought life to this planet, but we keep on adding to it.
However, and unsurprisingly for a few factors later discussed, there is still huge doubt and confusion about whether making this blanket thicker is making us hotter.
One major issue for communicating the science is there is no real stand-out piece of evidence, no ‘smoking-gun.’ The evidence is accumulative. Imagine each ‘piece’ of evidence as a child in school lunch hall – they do not make much noise on their own, but together their voices and their cutlery and their tumblers make quite a racket.
The going rate for a published and peer-reviewed paper that does not accept we changing our climate as opposed to one that does is around 1 to 1000. There is incredibly strong consensus across scientific institutions and scientific academies – one notable survey found that 97% of climate papers that state a view, agree that we are the cause – these are papers published by scientists that actually study the climate, not the group of sceptic economic and political leaders that continue to spout otherwise. In real-terms, the only people debating whether or not climate change is real, aren’t the ones researching it.
Climate Science is Imprecise
The debate has been fuelled with a widely known and reported characteristic of climate science. One that climate scientists are the first to voice; its imprecision. The weather man has historically been notoriously inaccurate and imprecise, although with developments in supercomputers, the five-day regional is getting pretty good.
Predicting the changes that will occur between now and 2030, 2050 or 2100, and not to mention grappling with the entire global climate system, is a truly gargantuan task. The grandeur of this is demonstrated by the scales involved and lack of crystal balls. The number of influencing factors are seemingly infinite, and in addition the interactions between these seemingly infinite factors must be calculated. Climate science is imprecise, but the body of evidence accurately points towards us as the agents of the observed changes.
Even BP Agree
We are pretty certain the human population is walking towards a cliff; in the scientific arena this is a given; even BP unreservedly agree that we will surpass the 2°C threshold (a politically agreed threshold generally considered to be the temperature above which climate change will significantly damage the global environment) and that the results will not be pleasant. The thin line we have to tread is between managing our atmospheric blanket and making sure we do not drive the global economy into the ground.
The Carbon Credit Card
As said above it doesn’t really matter to what degree we are going to warm our planet; what matters is that we are, and we have enough easily obtainable, proven fossil fuel reserves to go way beyond this 2°C threshold. We are spoiling the stable conditions we have been gifted in the current Holocene epoch (11,700 yrs – present) that has given humanity a window of opportunity. We have achieved a great deal, but we need to take a little rain check. We are using our carbon credit card, not really knowing about the interest rates.
97% Climate scientists statistic – Doran et al. 2009 & Anderegg et al. 2010