Climate Change Basics

You can find basic information about climate change, what's happening and what we need to do at these reputable Climate Change education web sites:

Climate futures predictions for Australia (ACE CRC Australian Government) (Australian Government)

Australian State of the Climate Report (Bureau of Meteorology)

Australian climate tracker (Bureau of Meteorology) (Australian government's Dept. Climate Change & Energy Efficiency)

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Climate Council of Australia (NGO) (NASA) (NASA) (NASA interactive) (climate science comment from climate scientists) (Researching and reporting the science and impacts of climate change)

How can we be sure that there really is a problem that needs addressing, and who should be believed on climate change?

Aside from the work of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, strong statements affirming the reality of human contribution to climate change have been released by the National Academies of Science of many countries, including: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the US and UK.

Reviews have also been undertaken of the scientific literature and again and again the finding is that the vast majority of qualified scientists with expertise in the relevant areas support the view that humans are influencing the climate.

A large number of professional scientific bodies and associations have also affirmed the reality of human influence on the climate, including, in the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Physics, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the Royal Society of the UK, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, and Australia’s CSIRO.

The main reason these scientists are so concerned is because they cannot explain the observed changes over the past century without taking into account rising greenhouse gas levels. Other factors such as sun spots, volcanic activity, changes to the Earth's orbit and cosmic rays have all been considered, but none of these have shown any significant changes that would explain the planet's recent warming, in fact their levels of activity (& therefore influence) have either not changed at all, or should be tending to slightly cool the planet. In other words, they just aren't having a significant impact.

Climate science has been studied for almost two hundred years now. In that time the basic physics and chemistry of the planetary greenhouse effect has become widely accepted and well understood, and the climatic changes now being observed fit well with the predictions, over the last seventy years, that were made about the effect of human induced carbon pollution on the earth's atmosphere, as scientists have become ever more certain as to what's happening, and why, and what effect on the climate we can expect in future.

There is rarely total unanimity on anything as complex in the Earth sciences, so by any measure, the agreement of more than 96% of scientists with demonstrated expertise in the field, plus the backing of all of the world’s major national academies of science and major professional scientific associations represents an extremely strong professional consensus on the core issue that the climate is warming and that humans are contributing to the problem through excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

Of those handful of respected and relevant scientists who don't fully agree with the majority view, they generally accept the general thrust that the globe is indeed warming to some degree due to human caused atmospheric pollution, but they tend to differ on some of the finer points, such as the relative importance of the other factors, the amount of warming expected or the amount of climate sensitivity caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The harsh reality of climate change is very frightening, no doubt, and just about everyone would want to be able to wish it away, but when weighing the risk of doing nothing compared to that of taking action, each of us needs to face up to and act on the dangers of climate change, for the common good of future generations, and simply because it's the right thing to do.

In general, all this observed climate change is proceeding at a more rapid pace than ever anticipated by previous estimates or model projections. Sea level is rising, global ice cover is diminishing, and biological systems are disturbed. Recent revisions of projected changes are higher than earlier estimates; the IPCC projections published in 2007 now appear rather conservative in light of more recent observations and improved modeling techniques. With unabated emissions, many trends in climate will likely accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

Rapid, sustained and effective mitigation is required more than ever before. Setting and reaching strong targets for the future cheaper and safer. Adoption and implementation of policies that promote energy efficiency, low-carbon technologies and the reduction of waste is the key to effective mitigation.

Without mitigation, the disruption of ecosystems spills over into social problems. Societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change. Poor communities are particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2°C are likely to cause major societal disruptions through the rest of the century. Climate change will also have strongly differential effects on present and future generations. Tackling climate change is therefore integral to enhancing social development and equity throughout the world. Linking climate change with human rights issues and democratic values is crucial for moving societies towards resilience and more sustainable development.