Increasing international awareness

Recent developments in climate science have stirred the international community of nations. Every week brings something new in the scientific literature, and every few months the results from new meetings point more strongly to the significance of changes being imposed on the planet. For example, in 2005, when the British government occupied the chairmanship of the G8 countries, a large scientific meeting was convened in Exeter to consider the potential for sudden abrupt change and to reflect on what might be considered 'dangerous anthropogenic change'.

Building on these results, international assessments and statements are indicating growing acceptance of the potential for very serious change. For example, there is now far greater precision and better understanding of how rapidly the climate is changing and the reasons why. The IPCC, which was set up to establish and communicate the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change to international leaders, is just now completing its Fourth Assessment Report. This report brings together the scientific evidence and vividly demonstrates the degree to which the uncertainties surrounding climate change and its consequences for the environment and society are being reduced with each round of IPCC assessment.

There is also a widening consensus across the scientific community. In 2005, there was a declaration by the national academies of science of 11 main countries in the world, including the US National Academy of Sciences, entitled 'Global Responses to Climate Change'. This statement made clear that the scientific evidence is very strong and the imperative for global action increasingly pressing.

While this was as strong a statement as was warranted given the state of the science in July of 2005, things have moved on in both the scientific and the public domain. For example, there have been major articles in leading newspapers and major newsmagazines. The Economist produced a major supplement on climate change in September 2005, an important and unexpected step for a business newspaper, and Scientific American published a special issue on the subject, the same month. This trend continued to accelerate during 2006.

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