UK and US scientists release plain-language guide to climate change

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Given how complex Earth's climate is, and how politicized the subject of climate change has become, it's easy to get lost in either the science or the rhetoric flying around about it. To solve this problem, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Academy have joined forces to release a publication that delves into the issues of climate change in a straight-forward and plain-language way.

Titled Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, the document provides answers to the top 20 questions about climate change, including how scientists know that it's happening, how they know that human activity, and specifically carbon dioxide, is responsible for recent changes, as well as the effects of climate change and why there's so much concern about it. It then follows up with a basic primer on the science behind climate change in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand format.

According to the National Academy of Sciences and Royal Academy press release:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) has risen to levels not seen for at least 800,000 years, and observational records dating back to the mid-19th century show a clear, long-term warming trend. The publication explains that measurements that distinguish between the different forms of carbon in the atmosphere provide clear evidence that the increased amount of CO2 comes primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels, and discusses why the warming that has occurred along with the increase in CO2 cannot be explained by natural causes such as variations in the sun’s output.

"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," Ralph J. Cicerone, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, said in the statement.

"Our aim with this new resource is to provide people with easy access to the latest scientific evidence on climate change, including where scientists agree and where uncertainty still remains," Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, added in the same NAS statement. "We have enough evidence to warrant action being taken on climate change; it is now time for the public debate to move forward to discuss what we can do to limit the impact on our lives and those of future generations."

The publication is available to download from both the National Academy of Sciences (click here) or from the Royal Academy (click here).

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The hope here is that if more people understand the concepts behind climate change, and understand why it's such a serious issue, without the facts being distorted due to political bias, or by those working for the industries that stand to profit most from continued fossil fuel burning, then there's a chance for us to make some real changes for the better. Dealing with climate change and reducing the impact of it on the environment isn't going to be easy, but the hardships of dealing with it head-on will be far less than what we'll have to endure if we keep ignoring the problem or continue to play a wait-and-see game with our future.

(Photo courtesy: The Canadian Press)

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