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Global Warming: The View from China
Volume 14, Number 45: 9 November 2011

"Global climate change," in the words of Fang et al. (2011), "is one of the biggest challenges to human society in the 21st century." And noting that "carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and land use change are considered the main factors causing global warming," plus the fact that "carbon emissions affect social and economic development," they correctly state that "climate change has been shifted from an academic topic to an international political, economic, and diplomatic issue."

The five Chinese researchers - all of whom are associated with the Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education at Peking University in Beijing, and two of whom are also associated with the Climate Change Research Center of the Academic Divisions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences - introduce their review of the climate change issue by noting that the Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been the primary voice of those who support the thesis that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been responsible for a worrisome increase in global temperature that is claimed to produce "a series of negative effects on natural systems, including snow and ice melt, sea-level rising, and disturbances in the hydrological cycle," as well as "the acidification of sea water," all of which phenomena are claimed by the IPCC to directly or indirectly threaten terrestrial and marine ecosystems and social systems.

More recently, however, Fang et al. state that the claims of the last IPCC report "have been largely questioned," noting that "the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), established in 2007, has introduced a number of controversial and divisive debates," citing Singer et al. (2008) and Idso et al. (2009). They also write that "the 'Climate-gate' and 'Glacier-gate' scandals have especially questioned the public credibility of the report," citing Hefferman (2009) and Schiemeier (2010). And as a result, they state that "the IPCC report is no longer the most authoritative document on climate changes, as it is restricted by its political tendencies and some errors and flaws."

In their own review of the subject, Fang et al. come to the following conclusions. First, "global warming is an objective fact," but there is "great uncertainty in the magnitude of the temperature increase." Second, "both human activities and natural factors contribute to climate change, but it is difficult to quantify their relative contributions." Third, with regard to the IPCC claim that "the increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (including CO2) is the driving force for climate warming," they note the following four problems: (1) "it remains unclear how the human and natural factors, especially the aerosols, affect the global temperature change," (2) "over the past century, the temperature change has not always been consistent with the change of CO2 concentration," since "for several periods, global temperatures decreased or were stable while the atmospheric CO2 concentration continuously increased," (3) "there is no significant correlation between the annual increment of the atmospheric CO2 concentration and the annual anomaly of annual mean temperature," and (4) "the observed significant increase of the atmospheric CO2 concentration may not be totally attributable to anthropogenic emissions because there are great uncertainties in the sources of CO2 concentration in [the] atmosphere."

This is but one view of the subject, albeit an important one, simply because it comes from China, the world's most populous country. Many different groups have many different ideas about the topic; and that is the nature of the long-running controversy: there is no agreement on these and other core issues. Consequently, and contrary to what the IPCC crowd continually contends, the science of global climate change is definitely not "settled."

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Fang, J.Y., Zhu, J.L., Wang, S.P., Yue, C. and Shen, H.H. 2011. Global warming, human-induced carbon emissions, and their uncertainties. Science China Earth Sciences 54: 1458-1468.

Heffernan, O. 2009. Climate data spat intensifies. Nature 460: 787.

Idso, C.D. and Singer, S.F. 2009. Climate Change Reconsidered; 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). The Heartland Institute, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Schiermeier, Q. 2010. IPCC flooded by criticism. Nature 463: 596-597.

Singer, S.F. 2008. Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). The Heartland Institute, Chicago, Illinois, USA.