A major analysis of the climate debate concludes that the majority of scientists agree that global warming is primarily man-made, although a vocal minority of skeptics is holding onto the idea that Mother Nature is the cause. The cover story of current issue Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine, appears at the conclusion of the much-publicized United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. That conference sought to seal a comprehensive international agreement on dealing with global warming.
C&EN Senior Correspondent Stephen K. Ritter notes in the article that global warming believers and skeptics agree on a cluster of core points. These points include the following: That the Earth's atmospheric load of carbon dioxide has increased since the Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s; that this increase largely results from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels; and that the average global temperatures have been rising since 1850, with most of the warming occurring since 1970.
"But here is where the cordial agreements stop," Ritter writes. "At the heart of the global warming debate is whether warming is directly the result of increasing anthropogenic CO2 levels, or if it is simply part of Earth's natural climatic variation." The article presents a sweeping panorama of global climate change science from the point of view of those who support both scenarios. The story notes that the debate is growing ever more contentious in light of the recent disclosure of e-mail messages suggesting that some scientists supporting the human activities scenario tried to suppress publication of opposing viewpoints.