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The Science Behind Climate Change

We talk to Professor Andrew Holmes talks about the science of climate change.
In order to live sustainably on the planet, we need to understand how we can do that and how what we do affects what’s going on in the planet. And typically, as we have now, there’s a lot of talk about climate change, but there’s also a lot of people who don’t believe in the science of climate change. How do we convince people that they need to have some understanding of climate science or these very complicated science ideas? You’ve asked about communication of the science of climate change, and this has been one of the most contentious issues that I have had to deal with in terms of my role as President of the Australian Academy of Science.
The first thing that the Academy of Science has done has produced now two– the second one was in 2015, the first was in 2010– booklets called The Science of Climate Change, Questions and Answers. And it asks in an objective way the questions that we as citizens of the world will be asking about the evidence for climate change and what we can do to reduce the effects that are predicted to happen– and to mitigate against effects that will happen anyhow. And I read a very interesting book by an author called George Marshall, a British author, entitled Don’t Even Think About It.
And Marshall’s arguments are that the human species has evolved from primitive, defensive animals whose evolution has depended on dealing with the challenge of the moment– the fight or flight kind of challenge– and that the human species is very poor at being able to project ahead 20 years into what might happen, even based on what we think is the best evidence in favour of a particular likelihood. So we have, first of all, I think, to understand that we as humans find that difficult and that there might be some who find it even more difficult to take on board than others. And we have to see that argument through their eyes in trying to share the argument.
But I think, ultimately, we do reach rather entrenched positions both in favour of the arguments that climate science puts forward and those who are not persuaded by those arguments. And I think all we can do as scientists is do our very best to see it through other people’s point of view, and to point to the evidence and the interpretation of the evidence which at the moment we can provide to the best of our ability and be quite frank about the fact that we don’t understand everything, and we might have to change our explanation based on further evidence that we acquire.
But as someone said, if you were standing on a rail track and you saw a locomotive bearing down at you at 100 kilometres per hour, would you stay on the track just in case it could stop, or would you get off? And I think that’s what we must bear in mind. The best knowledge that we have at the moment is that human-generated carbon dioxide emissions are imposing on the planet an unsustainable burden in terms of temperature increase. And we must address that.

“…human-generated carbon dioxide emissions are imposing on the planet an unsustainable burden in terms of temperature increase. And we must address that”. Andrew Holmes (2018)

Human Activities

Energy production and its by-products play a central role in global warming and cooling. Fossil fuel combustion is the biggest cause of increased CO2 atmospheric concentration.

It is almost unanimously agreed that human-caused global warming is real [1]. “Continued reliance on fossil fuels would lead to greater impacts in the future…”.

It is estimated that carbon dioxide concentration will continue to rise at an alarming rate if left unabated. By the year 2100, global warming may lead to a global temperature increase by as much as six degrees Celsius.

If we can shift away from the reliance our mains sectors place on fossil fuels and preserve our remaining fossil fuel reserves then that will go a large way in combating the predicted growth in warming for the coming decades.

If you’d like to read more on climate change and global warming please find the article by the Australian Academy of Science attached below.

Conversation Starter

  • After watching the video above and reading some of this content what is your view? Do you agree?


  1. “The science of climate change: Questions and answers” [Internet], Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, 2015. 1st ed. Available from: Australian Academy of Science (PDF)
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