I agree with Brian Beck (letters, April 4 – Random figures...) that it is more sensible to talk about global warming.
Climate change and its consequences are more complicated. The science is also more challenging and there is thus more uncertainty about the detail. The recent IPPC report on that science is based on critical review of over 9,200 papers by more than 200 lead authors. Although the authors do not use the terminology of Scottish Law they are very clear about how much confidence they have in their conclusions. As someone who spent his whole working life as a scientist I am impressed by the report.
The IPPC report has convinced me that our planet is warming faster than at any time in the past one hundred thousand years mainly because of the carbon dioxide coming from our use of fossil fuels in the past 250 years.
If present trends in fuel use continue, warming will quickly cause catastrophic climate change even though climate scientists cannot be too specific about detail.
The scientists have also convinced me that global warming has not stopped. We are merely enjoying a pause because a higher proportion of the excess heat is being absorbed by the oceans. If ocean circulation follows its usual cycle that heat will be released to the atmosphere and warming will resume.
Our Government has reached very similar conclusions on the basis of advice from our own climate scientists and earlier IPCC reports.
The UK is committed to an 80 percent reduction in our 1990 carbon emissions by 2050. So far we are on course and therefore well placed to influence the negotiation of a UN agreement on carbon emissions by the end of 2015. I hope that your readers will press our politicians to support this initiative in these difficult times.
Like Brian, I found the IPCC science report very hard going. The UK Royal Society and the American National Academies of Sciences seem to agree with us. They have worked together to produce an authoritative report that covers the same ground as IPCC and includes answers to Brian’s questions. The report can be downloaded from the Royal Society website.