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Frequently Asked Questions about the Science of Climate Change – 2008 Update

Cover of the " Frequently Asked Questions About the Science of Climate Change - 2008 Update"Canadians frequently ask questions that indicate considerable public confusion about many aspects of climate change science. Some of this confusion stems simply from the fact that the climate system is extremely complex. Understanding how the Earth's climate changes over time in response to different factors requires an understanding of the whole of the earth system: the atmosphere, the oceans, the land and all the living things within these parts and the interactions among them all. Some of the confusion may also stem from the fact that there are many different sources of information available on climate change science and not all of these tell the same story. It is a significant challenge for anyone not reading the primary scientific literature on an ongoing basis to know what to consider 'sound science' and what not.

(PDF format - 1.47 MB download free reader)

This document was first published in 2002 to provide reliable, credible responses to the most frequently heard questions and arguments about climate change science. Responses are based on fundamental, well-accepted principles of physics, on the highly acclaimed international science assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and on recent peer-reviewed scientific papers. In the initial publication, responses were consistent with the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, published in 2001. This update also includes results from the many new papers and reports published since then, particularly the recently released Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, published in 2007. Specific references are provided for diagrams and for responses where specific values are introduced.

This document is intended primarily for those with some prior knowledge of the climate change issue and in particular for those who themselves are involved in educating others about climate change science. However, by providing both a simple response and a more detailed technical explanation for each question, it is our hope that this document will be of value to a wide readership.


"Frequently Asked Questions About the Science of Climate Change - 2008 Update" was prepared by Henry Hengeveld (Emeritus Associate) and Elizabeth Bush, in collaboration with Patti Edwards and Jacinthe Lacroix, all with Environment Canada's Atmospheric Science Assessment and Integration Section. Valuable input was also provided by Angus Fergusson. Special thanks go to Rebecca Williams for her technical support.

Additional hard copies may also be obtained, free of charge, by writing to:

Atmospheric Science Assessment and Integration Section
Science and Technology Branch
Environment Canada
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T4

Tel. : 416-739-4645

Published by authority of the Minister of the Environment

© Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Canada 2008

Catalogue No. En56-219/2008E
ISBN 978-0-662-47035-9

Ce document est aussi disponbile en français
Printed on recyclable paper

Cover Photo Credits: NASA globe_west_2048
Insets: Environment Canada

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