Climate Change Science: A New Synthesis for Australia

Article excerpt

How does today's climate change differ from similar events in the past? What does the best science tell us about where we are heading? And how does research suggest we should respond to the challenges? CSIRO summarises the laatest peer-reviewed research in a new online book--Climate Change: Science and Solutions for Australia.

Climate change has been called the greatest environmental challenge of our time. It also has proved one of the greatest communication challenges.

The breadth and depth of climate change science is reflected in the contributions of more than 2500 scientific expert reviewers, 800 authors, and 450 lead authors from many disciplines, which contributed to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment reports. (1)

Australians now have access to a plain English summary of the science in the form of a free online book published by CSIRO. The 168-page book, Climate Change: Science and Solutions for Australia, draws on peer-reviewed literature involving thousands of researchers.

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Megan Clark, says the book provides 'a bridge from the peer-reviewed scientific literature to a broader audience of society while providing the depth of science that this complex issue demands and deserves'.

Leading figures involved in the public climate change debate agree on the need for a book that takes ordinary Australians through the complexity of the science.

'With so much misinformation on climate change flying around in the media and the public these days, a summary of the latest peer-reviewed science by a group of Australia's leading scientists is a welcome addition to the discourse,' comments Professor Will Steffen of the ANU, who was recently appointed to the nation's new Climate Change Commission.

'The book reiterates the importance of world-class research institutions like CSIRO in providing the Australian public and politicians with reliable information on climate change from researchers with impeccable credentials.'


Anna Skarbek, is Executive Director of ClimateWorks, a non-profit group supported by Monash University and The Myer Foundation that researches 'low-carbon prosperity' solutions. She is pleased to see a summary of the science made publicly available online.

'It is critical that we continue to be guided by peer-reviewed science, and I welcome this effort to help make it accessible,' she says.

Dr Bruce Mapstone, Chief of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research wrote the book's introduction. He says Climate Change provides details and discussions that supplement earlier scientific summaries provided by CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, and the Australian Academy of Science. (2,3,4)

'The book explains what this extra detail about the science is telling us, and what are some of the main uncertainties in the science,' says Dr Mapstone.

'It reflects the current state of knowledge up to, and including, last year, so key work published since the 2007 IPCC assessment report will be captured in each of the chapters.'

Climate Change points out that despite some areas of uncertainty in the science, climate scientists agree overwhelmingly that:

* the climate has been changing over the past century or so at a rate faster than recorded for a very long time in geological history

* a clear link exists between atmospheric greenhouse gases and global temperature, consistent with the laws of physics and chemistry

* increasing levels of greenhouse gases--mainly C[O.sub.2]--in the atmosphere are primary causes of global warming and acidification of the global ocean, and

* emissions from human activities are primarily responsible for most of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The book highlights important distinctions between climate and weather, and climate variability and climate change, which are often overlooked in the public debate. …