By Claire West

A new website which explains the science behind the headlines on climate change was launched today by Government Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir John Beddington.

The website presents an overview of some of the most important areas of study in climate science, to help anyone wishing to get beyond the day-to-day headlines to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental scientific issues involved.

For those uncertain about the state of scientific knowledge, the web resource explains both where evidence is well established and where findings and projections remain subject to greater uncertainty.

Few areas of science have such profound implications for public policy and society as the study of climate change. It is a research field that has come under intense scrutiny, particularly over the past year with a series of stories hitting the headlines.

Sir John said:

“Reporting on climate change science has often created more heat than light. The evidence is compelling that climate change is happening, that human activities are the major driver for this and that the future risks are substantial.

“At the same time, there is much we need to understand better; for example, the pace and extent of the changes we can expect, and regional impacts.

“The fact that uncertainty exists in climate science, as it does in other fields, does not detract from the value of the evidence. But an appreciation of the nature and degree of uncertainty, and of the likelihood and potential severity of risks, is critical if the science is to properly inform decision-making.”

The online resource, which will be hosted in a new section of the Government Office for Science website, explains the scientific issues, evidence and principles behind key points, such as that:

·human activities, in particular burning fossil fuels and land use changes, release CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere;

·greenhouse gases trap heat radiated by the Earth, which warms the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere;

·CO2 levels are now over a third higher than they were before the industrial revolution, and continuing to rise fast. The level now reached is the highest seen for at least 800,000 years;

·several independent analyses show global average temperatures to be rising;

·many other observations, such as Arctic summer sea ice extent, confirm the long term warming trend. Since the 1970s, when satellite records began, the late summer minimum in Arctic sea ice has decreased by about 10% each decade.