, Volume 162, Issue 8-9, pp 1557-1586

The Global Warming Debate: A Review of the State of Science

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Abstract

A review of the present status of the global warming science is presented in this paper. The term global warming is now popularly used to refer to the recent reported increase in the mean surface temperature of the earth; this increase being attributed to increasing human activity and in particular to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) in the atmosphere. Since the mid to late 1980s there has been an intense and often emotional debate on this topic. The various climate change reports (1996, 2001) prepared by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), have provided the scientific framework that ultimately led to the Kyoto protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (particularly carbon dioxide) due to the burning of fossil fuels. Numerous peer-reviewed studies reported in recent literature have attempted to verify several of the projections on climate change that have been detailed by the IPCC reports.

The global warming debate as presented by the media usually focuses on the increasing mean temperature of the earth, associated extreme weather events and future climate projections of increasing frequency of extreme weather events worldwide. In reality, the climate change issue is considerably more complex than an increase in the earth’s mean temperature and in extreme weather events. Several recent studies have questioned many of the projections of climate change made by the IPCC reports and at present there is an emerging dissenting view of the global warming science which is at odds with the IPCC view of the cause and consequence of global warming. Our review suggests that the dissenting view offered by the skeptics or opponents of global warming appears substantially more credible than the supporting view put forth by the proponents of global warming. Further, the projections of future climate change over the next fifty to one hundred years is based on insufficiently verified climate models and are therefore not considered reliable at this point in time.