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'Humans to blame' on climate change
A major new report on climate science is expected to state that humans are to blame for global warming
A major international report on climate science will be published today, with scientists more certain than ever that humans are causing global warming.
Scientists and government representatives have been meeting in Stockholm this week to finalise the first part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report.
The report is expected to show even greater certainty that human activity is causing the majority of the warming the planet has seen since the 1950s, up from a 90% certainty in the last IPCC study in 2007 to 95% in this assessment.
The warming is leading to large-scale changes in the ocean, in sea levels and ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice, the report - which draws on thousands of scientific papers to assess the evidence for climate change and its causes - is set to warn.
Leaked versions of the report also suggest warming has been particularly marked since the 1970s, with each of the last three decades significantly warmer than all the previous decades since 1850.
It is set to show ice sheets are losing mass, glaciers are shrinking globally, sea ice cover is shrinking in the Arctic and the permafrost is thawing in the northern hemisphere.
And it will contain updated figures on projected warming in the next century and sea level rise.
In the run-up to the publication of the IPCC report, questions have been raised about the slowdown in temperature rises in the past 15 years, with climate "sceptics" claiming it undermines the theory of climate change.
UK researchers have said a temporary slowdown in temperature rises is not unexpected, due to natural variation, and that heat going into the deep ocean may partly be the cause of lower rises in surface temperatures.
And a number of different indicators of climate change, as well as surface temperatures, provide evidence of the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate.
Questions have also been raised about the future of the IPCC, with critics claiming that major high-level assessments of climate change were no longer helpful for governments having to make political decisions about tackling global warming.
John Ashton, the former special representative for climate change at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, challenged the lack of political will in tackling the issue, as he called on the media to be more probing in its climate change coverage.
He also dismissed claims by politicians that environmentally friendly government policies would bring financial ruin as "junk economics".
Mr Ashton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we've been missing the real public interest story in this over the years.
"The real public interest story isn't is the science strong, the real public interest story is why is it that as the science has got stronger and stronger the politics has got weaker and weaker?"
The diplomat suggested that politicians had allowed the debate to become clouded because it was more convenient.
He said: "This dealing with climate change, what do we do about climate change, has difficult political choices. And political establishments across the spectrum have found it more comfortable to have a debate focus on the science than actually to address those choices. It's not an economics problem, it's not a technology problem, it's a political problem in the end."
He said the media had a duty not just to entertain, but also to inform the public on matters as serious as climate change. "It's also easy to overcomplicate," he said.
"But actually the media also has a role of informing debate."
He added: "It's really interesting, you've had so much focus because people like Lord Lawson ... have been trying to get the focus on whether the science is right; not very much focus on whether their economics is right when they say if we do what we need to do it will wreck the economy, which it won't, it's junk economics, actually.
"But it's not been exposed to the same kind of scrutiny.
"And I think there is a responsibility on the media to be a little more penetrating in its own understanding of this field, there are lots of people trying to manipulate the media debate, and the media can't afford just to be a kind of naive detached observer," he said.