Royal Society Criticizes US on Climate Change

The UK’s prestigious and influential Royal Society called out the Bush Administration on its resistance to overwhelming scientific evidence regarding global warming and the administration’s general lack of a consistent message about where they stand with regard to climate change.

Lord May of Oxford, the President of the Royal Society, called on the U.S. Government to make its position on climate change science clear following comments by James L. Connaughton, senior environmental and natural resources adviser to President George W. Bush. During a March 15 interview on the ‘Today’ program on BBC Radio 4, Mr Connaughton was asked: “So you accept that carbon emissions and global warming are linked? And that global warming is a threat. Is that now the administration’s position?” Mr Connaughton replied: “I want to be careful about your word choice. We are still working and the issue is serious. We see warming temperatures and we are still working on the issue of causation, the extent to which humans are a factor, that they may be, as well as our understanding of what effects that may result from that over the course of the next century.” Later in the interview, Mr Connaughton claimed that greenhouse gases “do not have present effects” but suggested that emissions “will be reduced substantially over time”. Lord May, who was chief scientific adviser to the UK Government between 1995 and 2000, said that Mr Connaughton’s comments demonstrate “how confused the US Government is on climate change” While Lord May admitted that there are still some uncertainties about aspects of climate change, the Bush administration “does not appear to accept the scientific consensus”, which was expressed in the Third Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001. At no point in his interview did Mr Connaughton refer to the IPCC, which the global scientific community recognizes as the most authoritative source of scientific information on climate change and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, according to May. “The Bush administration appears to be out on a limb on climate change and in disagreement with its own scientific advisers,” Lord May said. “The President commissioned the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2001 to assess the current understanding of global climate change. The report of this study, published in June 2001, stated: ‘The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.’ Yet Mr Connaughton’s comments today appear to suggest that he remains uncertain about the scientific consensus.” “It also appears that because the Bush administration remains confused about the science of climate change, it does not accept the case for taking urgent action to cut emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. We hope that the US Government makes rapid progress in improving its understanding of the science behind climate change in the next few months and that it accepts that the case has been made by the time of the G8 summit in Gleneagles in early July.”

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