Top Scientists Conclude Human Activity Is Affecting Global Climate

Scientists conclude that industrial emissions have been the dominant influence behind climate change for the past 50 years, overwhelming natural forces

Published: 03-Dec-2003

Arlington, Va. -- Two of the nation's best-known atmospheric scientists, after reviewing extensive research by their colleagues, say there is no doubt human activities are having measurable -- and increasing -- impacts on global climate. Results of the study, which appears in the December 5th issue of the journal Science as part of a "State of the Planet" assessment, cites atmospheric observations and multiple computer models to paint a detailed picture of the climate changes likely to buffet Earth in coming decades, including rising temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events such as flooding.

Thomas Karl of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and Kevin Trenberth, director of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., conclude that industrial emissions have been the dominant influence behind climate change for the past 50 years, overwhelming natural forces. The most important of these emissions is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps solar radiation and warms the planet. Trenberth's research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

"There is no doubt the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate," they write. "The likely result is more frequent heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation events, and related impacts, e.g., wildfires, heat stress, vegetation changes, and sea-level rise which will be regionally dependent."

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