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Is Climate Change happening?

The IPCC synthesis report 2001, shows that the earth warmed between 1900 and 1940, then subsequently cooled between 1941 and 1965, but surface temperatures have been warming ever since (Fig 1.0). Data from millions of thermometer measurements taken from all over the world from as far back as 1860, allow calculation of average surface air temperatures. This data is believed to be the most useful when describing the state of the global climate. It can be seen that 1998 is the warmest year on record, with the ten warmest all occurring since 1990. Records show that global temperature has risen by approximately 0.6°C since the beginning of the 20th century, and 0.4°C of this warming has occurred since the 1970s (UKCIP, 2002). This indicates that global warming is occurring. However, many scientists are sceptical, and the issue is subject to debate on whether surface temperatures are rising or not.

graph showing global temperatures rising

Global- Average Surface Air Temperatures

The sceptics can be divided into two groups. Those that do not believe the climate is warming, and those who have the opinion that global temperatures are rising, but the observed increase is not anthropogenic. The latter argue that the rising temperatures are due to natural variation in climate as the world emerges from a mini-ice age (Kuo, Lindberg, and Thornson, 1990). They make the point that atmospheric concentration of CO2 has widely varied over time, the highest estimates being over twenty times higher than at present, and the lowest at approximately 18th-Century levels (Berner, 1997).

The two sceptical views are discussed – click on the links below:-

the climate is not warming
increase is not anthropogenic.
The UK Government accepts Climate Change: Read Tony Blair’s 2004 speech.

January 2006:
More than 80% civil engineers are now not only convinced that Climate Change is taking place: They also claim to be worried about it. More..

A Personal Viewpoint on Climate Change

Climate change glacier viewClimate Change – What Is It?

By Rick Chappo

Climate change is an amazingly simple phrase for such a complex subject. Following, we have a go at defining climate change in today’s terms.

In the current day lexicon of scientists, climate modification isn’t really a term of use anymore. The reason for this is that we have come to understand that the effect of the changes we make to our environment will increase the temperature in many locations on the planet, but will also cool a few places. In light of this, the thing you know of as climate modification is actually referred to as global climate change. Over all, however, the world is definitely warming.

We need a simple definition for climate change in relation to the warming of the planet, one that gets the gist without excluding the simplicities. The simplest and most accurate definition is that climate change is the effect greenhouse gases have on the earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, carbon dioxide and methane. While this sounds like a simple definition, there are a couple of key things to realize.

First, climate change is both a natural phenomena and one created by man. Put another way, greenhouse gases are a natural part of the biosphere and would exist if man did not. Indeed, they are a critical component to the existence of life on this planet. If greenhouse gases didn’t exist, the temperature on planet earth would average zero degrees! Naturally occurring gases, however, keep the temperature at a much more livable 59 degrees.

So, if climate change occurs naturally, what is the big panic about? The problem we are facing is the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases act as thermal blankets for the atmosphere. The more gas in the atmosphere, the thicker the blanket and the less heat escapes. Over the last 80 years, we have been pumping massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the sky. At the same time, we have been reducing forestation around the planet, the primary plant collection that sucks greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. This double whammy is starting to show negative results, the increased heating of our world.

The ultimate question with climate alteration is what will happen as the planet heats up. We are already seeing signs with the retreat of the glaciers. Glacier National Park, for instance, is going to have to be renamed since it has already lost 65 percent of all of its glaciers! While the exact end result of these environmental changes is not clear, we can expect major climatic changes over the next 80 years.

About the Author:

Rick Chapo is with – a directory of solar energy companies. Visit to read more solar power articles.


What is climate change?

Climate change can be defined as “statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period (Houghton et al, 2001)”. It is extremely important to define what can be labelled as climate change, and what cannot.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCC) states that climate change is variation in the climate, which can be attributed to human activity, either directly or indirectly, and stresses that it must be in addition to natural variation being experienced during the same time period. It is essential to distinguish between “climate change” due to human activities and “climate variability” due to natural causes. Only when we have a comprehensive understanding of these factors can we understand what effect humans are having on the composition of the atmosphere (UNFCC, 2002).Rows of lettuce growing in a field Halsall Lancashire02

The potential problem of global warming was officially recognised in 1988 when the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC was created with the intention of being an objective assessor of peer reviewed published scientific literature. It’s fundamental objective to provide a comprehensive, and impartial view, regarding the science and potential impact of climate change due to anthropogenic factors, then to use this information to look at options for potential adaptation and mitigation. This lead to the creation of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, a result of the first IPCC Assessment Report, which was completed in 1990.

The second IPCC assessment was published in 1995, and provided the basis for the Kyoto Agreement, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A third IPCC report was completed in 2001, providing a comprehensive source of reference, which has been used internationally as the basis for the science and impact of global climate change. A fourth report is planned for 2007, and its scope and outline are currently under discussion (

Climate change is one of the most serious environmental challenges facing the world.  Call for action. The need to address climate change is urgent.

Climate change is a change or variability in the average weather of a region. It may be a positive change in some locations which may enhance the productivity of a region, however, the rapidity of the change will cause major disruption and there will be many more losers than gains if climate change advances as predicted and as initial indications are now beginning to show.

To become fully engaged with the issue of climate change, it is important to understand the science. Understanding how the circulation of the Earth’s carbon atoms drives climate change. Climate change is caused by the persistent build-up of greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere. Climate change will also alter the availability of freshwater and potable water resources.  There are a handful of other, mainly industrial, chemicals that also contribute to climate change.  The scientific opinion on climate change at the moment is that ‘the warming that has occurred in the past 50 years can be directly attributed to anthropogenic emissions.

Many people confuse the hole in the ozone layer with climate change. In fact, the hole in the ozone layer, which is now beginning to mend itself due to the efforts, and agreements, made worldwide for industry to limit and reduce ozone depleting emissions, has nothing to do with climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol is the international plan to reduce climate change pollution. But climate change is about much more than perceptions of scientific certainty or uncertainty.

For example, water vapor is not typically considered part of the climate change problem, although larger amounts of water vapour are known to be present now than in the past, and this will also have an effect on climate.

Climate change is a change in the ‘average weather’ that a given region experiences, and average weather changes will be unevenly dispersed around the world, with some places experiencing much greater rises than others. Climate change in the Arctic will be greater than in most other regions, and is expected to move the permafrost boundary north by several hundred kilometers.

The issue of climate change is closely linked to other environmental issues, and to the challenge of sustainable development itself.  The impacts of climate change once thought of as unimaginable and farfetched are now occurring.  Climate change, sometimes called “global warming”, is the most serious and most complex environmental issue ever to confront the international community.

Climate change isn’t a problem for the future, it’s affecting people around the world today.  A vast amount of research has been done on climate change, its causes and implications.  Many positive feedbacks also exist where the effects of climate change accelerate global warming.  However, developing countries in particular are becoming more and more concerned about how climate change will affect them, and they do not possess the wealth to protect their populations from the effects of natural disasters such as flooding.

Read on throughout this web site for more information on climate change, and how you can be part of the solution.

How Polluting is Flying – How Polluting is your flight?

Revealed: The real cost of air travel

It might be cheap, but it’s going to cost the earth. The cut-price air ticket is fuelling a boom that will make controlling global warming impossible. (Adapted from the Independent Newspaper (London) front page leader on Sunday 28 May 2005.

Here are some examples of flights giving the environmental cost per passenger of a return flight from London to:

Miles: 288
Fuel: 48kg
Greenhouse gases: 452 kgCO2
Travelling by car & ferry is 13 times more considerate to the ozone layer, than going by plane.
Miles: 217
Fuel: 36kg
Greenhouse gases: 341 kgCO2
The greenhouse gas emitted paer passenger is equivalent to the weight of 179 Edam cheeses.
Miles: 714
Fuel: 120kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,122 kgCO2
The amount of carbon emitted is equivalent to the weight of 4 reindeer, and would be cut by 85% through travelling by car.
Miles: 636
Fuel: 107kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,000kgCO2
A train would have to travel from London to Madras and back before polluting the air as much as a 747’s return flight to Prague.
Miles: 705
Fuel: 119kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,109kgCO2
A trip by rail would emit 95% less greenhouse gas.
Miles: 212
Fuel: 35kg
Greenhouse gases: 333 kgCO2Catching Eurostar would release 40 times less global-warming pollutants.
Miles: 891
Fuel: 150kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,410kgCO2
A tourist could drive around on a scooter non-stop for more than 6 months and still produce fewer emissions.
Miles: 1,485
Fuel: 250kg
Greenhouse gases: 2,336kgCO2
After 1 trip a passenger would have to go without heating, cooking, lighting and mechnised transport for 2 years & 9 months to make up for their impact on the environment.
New York
Miles: 3,455
Fuel: 414kg
Greenhouse gases: 3,,863kgCO2
A visitor would have to take 700 two-hour bus tours of the Big Apple to emit the same amount of CO2 as on their flight.
Miles: 10,557
Fuel: 1196kg
Greenhouse gases:
The carbon emitted per passenger is equivalent to a mini driving around the world 640 times or the weight of four Indian elephants.
jet airplane 4 Assumptions:
Based upon 80% occupancy of a Jumbo Jet DC 747. All greenhouse gases expressed as warming equivalent of CO2.
Source: Air Travel Calculator and United Nations Environment Programme.


You can also calculate the CO2 emissions generated by your flight here.

Climate Change FAQ

Climate Change Frequently Asked QuestionsWe’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions. If you do not find an answer to your question here, contact us at .

[Faq 1]
slide of Melting ice walls lavender skyWhat is the purpose of the Kyoto agreement?
The object of the Kyoto pact is to reduce greenhouse gases.

[Faq 2]
What are the so called greenhouse gases?
The popular term “greenhouse gases, refers to those gases in the earth’s atmosphere generated by man, which tend to absorb heat from the sun to a greater extent than other gases in the atmosphere. By so doing these gases are thought to be a primary cause of globate warming.

[Faq 3]
Variations in the earth’s temperature have always taken place surely?
Yes, but the rate of change appears to be unnaturally high.

[Faq 5]
What is the meaning of “anthropogenic”
Simply: Produced or caused by humans.

Climate Change References:

(NB: Some sites may require payment for access.)

Anon (2001) IPCC Web Resource- Mandate and Membership of the IPCC Accessed 21/10/04

Anon (2003) New Scientist, Hot Topics; Climate Change: – Accessed 28/10/2004

Anon (2003) World Climate Report- Feature: hockey stick vs. wet noodle 23/10/04

Anon (2004) Putin Signs Bill to Ratify Kyoto Protocol The Associated Press, Nov. 5Anyuittug National Park

Antonio Regalado (2003), Global Warming Sceptics are Facing Storm Clouds. The Wall Street Journal, July 31

Berner RA Paleoclimate – The rise of plants and their effect on weathering and atmospheric CO2 Science 276: 544-546 Apr 25 1997

Bond G, Kromer B, Beer J, et al. Persistent solar influence on north Atlantic climate during the Holocene
Science 294 (5549): 2130-2136 Dec 7 2001

Briffa, K.R Annual climate variability in the Holocene; interpreting the message of ancient trees Quaternary Science 19, 87-105 2000

Cammell ME, and Knight JD, 1992 Effects of Climate Change on the Population Dynamics of Crop Pests Advances in Ecological Research 22: 117-156

Climate Change 2001- IPCC Third Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press. Online at:

Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdon: the UK climate impacts programme 2002 (UKCIP02) Scientific report

Hulme, M., Jenkins, G.J., Lu, X., Turnpenny, J.R., Mitchell, T.D., Jones, R.G., Lowe, J., Murphy, J.M., Hassell, D., Boorman, P., McDonald, R. and Hill, S.

Crowley TJ Lowery T How warm was the Medieval Warm Period? A comment on “Man-made” versus Natural Climate Change Atmospheric Biology 29: 51-54 2000

Daly J (1997) A Discernible Human Influence… Accessed 21/10/04.

Easterling DR, Horton B, Jones PD, et al. Maximum and minimum temperature trends for the globe Science 277 (5324): 364-367 JUL 18 1997

Esper, J., E.R. Cook, and F. H. Schweingruber Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability Science, 295, 2250–2253 2002

Folland CK, Rayner NA, Brown SJ, et al. Global temperature change and its uncertainties since 1861 Geophysical Research Letters 28 (13): 2621-2624 JUL 1 2001

Grubb M (2004) Climate Change Challenge 1: Scientific Evidence and Implications- The Carbon Trust

Hall A, Manabe S The role of water vapour feedback in unperturbed climate variability and global warming Journal of Climate12 (8): 2327-2346 Part 1 Aug 1999Cornfield

Hansen J, Ruedy R, Glascoe J, et al. GISS analysis of surface temperature change
J Geophysical Research atmosphere 104 (D24): 30997-31022 DEC 27 1999

Held IM, Soden BJ Water vapor feedback and global warming Annual Review of Energy and Environment 25: 441-475 2000

Houghton et al. (2001) Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis Published for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Cambridge University Press

Hulme M (2001) Global warming: should we implement the Kyoto Protocol? Spiked Science Debate. Sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council. – accessed 01/11/04

Jones PD, New DE, Barnett TP High Resolution Palaeoclimatic Records for the Last Millennium: Integration, Interpretation and Comparison with General Circulation Model Control Run Temperatures Holocene 8: 455-471 1998

Kirby A (2004) Climate gas cuts ‘are affordable’ – BBC News – accessed 03/11/04

Kuo C, Lindberg C, Thomson DJ Coherence Established Between Atmospheric carbon Dioxide and Global Temperature Nature 343: 709-714 Feb 22 1990

Langdon C Takahashi T Sweeny C Chipman D Goddard J Marubini F Aceves H Barnett H Atkinson MJ Effect of calcium carbonate state on the calcification rate of an experimental coral reef Global Biogeochemical Cycles 14 (2): 639-654 Jun 2000

Lindzen RS Climate Dynamics and Global Change Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics 26: 353-378 1994

Lomborg, Bjørn, (2001) The skeptical environmentalist: measuring the real state of the world Cambridge University Press.

Mann ME, Amman C, Bradley RS, Briffa K, Jones P et al. Forum: On Past Temperatures and Anomalous Late-20th Century Warmth Eos 84: 256-258 July 8 2003

Mann ME, Bradley RS, Hughes MK Global-scale Temperature Patterns and Climate Forcing Over the Past Six Centuries Nature 392: 779-787 Apr 23 1998

Mann ME, Bradley RS, Hughes MK Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and Limitations Geophysical Research Letters 26: 759-762 Mar 15 1999Classic cumulus

Michaels P, and Knappenberger P Human effect on global climate? Nature 384: 522-523 Dec 12 1996

Phil Jones (2000)- Climatic Research Unit. The Millennial Temperature Record -Assessed 23/10/04

Reaser JK, Pomerance R, Thomas PO Coral bleaching and global climate change: Scientific findings and policy recommendations Conservation Biology 14 (5): 1500-1511 Oct 2000

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Solanki, Uroskin, Krmoer, Schussler, Beer Unusual Activity of the Sun During Recent Decades Compared to the Previous 11,000 years Nature 431 1084-1087 Oct 28 2004

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Spencer RW, Christy JR Precise Monitoring of Global Temperature Trends from Satellites Science 247: 1558-1562 Mar 30 1990

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UNEP (2002) Climate Change Information Kit – assessed 06/11/04Bridge linking Somerset Village to Watford Bermuda

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Help Stop Climate Change!

UK Government Climate Change Reports
House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Climate Change, Water Security and Flooding.
8 Sept 2004
1.28 MB Acrobat file

International Research Bodies
[DOWNLOAD LINK] – not found
Holocene Climate Variability (HOLIVAR)
The HOLIVAR programme seeks to bring together European scientists interested in climate variability over the last 11,500 years (the Holocene period).
March 2003
Acrobat file

[DOWNLOAD LINK] – not found
The Role of Soils in the Terrestrial Carbon Balance (RSTCB) An ESF scientific programme.

[Nov 2004]
Acrobat file