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Context of 'September 19, 2006: Study Concludes Human Activity is Most Probable Cause of Rising Sea Temperatures'

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Frederick Seitz, a former tobacco company scientist and former National Academy of Sciences president, writes and circulates a letter asking scientists to sign a petition calling upon the US government to reject the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was authored by an obscure group by the name of “Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.” [Seitz, 1998] Seitz includes in his letter a report arguing that carbon dioxide emissions do not pose a threat to the global climate. The report—which is not peer reviewed—is formatted to look like an article from the esteemed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The organizers of the petition will claim that some 17,000 scientists signed the petition. But it is subsequently discovered that few credentialed climate scientists added their signature to the list. Moreover, the petition contains the names of several fictional characters. The magazine Scientific American analyzes a random sampling of the signers and concludes that only about one percent of the petition signatories claiming to have a Ph.D. in a climate-related field actually do. And in a highly unusual move, the National Academy of Sciences issues a statement disavowing Seitz’s petition and disassociating the academy from the PNAS-formatted paper. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 16 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Frederick Seitz, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

An unnamed NOAA scientist attempts to generate media attention for a recently published paper that used a comparison of climate models and empirical data to approximate the influence of human activities on ocean temperatures. However the media advisory is repeatedly downgraded by NOAA officials until it is eventually canceled. In an interview with the Government Accountability Project, the scientist later says that publishing such news became increasingly difficult after the Bush administration took office. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; Reuters, 1/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Watson, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing over 41,000 scientists from 130 countries involved in the study of atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences, issue a statement titled, “Human Impacts on Climate.” The opening paragraph states: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth’s history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century….” [World Wildlife Fund, n.d.; American Geophysical Union, 12/2003]

Entity Tags: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A National Academy of Sciences study concludes that the last few decades were warmer than any other comparable period in the last four centuries. The study’s findings are based on evidence from tree rings, boreholes, retreating glaciers, and other indicators of past surface temperatures. The study was commissioned by Congress in 2005 to investigate whether the claims made in a controversial 1998 climate study by climate scientist Michael Mann are true. That study had concluded that the climate is now warmer than any other time in the last 1,000 years. Mann had also reported in his study that the 1990s were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year. The authors of the current study say they were unable to draw any solid conclusions about temperatures extending beyond the last 400 years for lack of reliable data. Nonetheless, they do agree that available evidence indicates that Mann’s conclusion regarding the last 1,000 years is indeed “plausible.” “Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th Century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium,” the report concludes. [National Research Council, 2006; National Academies, 6/22/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006; BBC, 6/23/2006]

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concludes that there is an 84 percent chance that human activity is responsible for rising sea surface temperatures (SST). Climate scientist Tom Wigley, one of the study’s authors, says data from 22 different computerized climate change models showed “exceptional correlation” between human activity and climate change. The only plausible explanation for the dramatic increase in sea surface temperatures is deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. “There is less than a one percent chance that the changes in SST could be the result of non-human factors,” Wigley explains. The paper also finds that higher sea surface temperatures are increasing the frequency and intensity of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. [Inter Press Service, 9/12/2006; Boston Globe, 9/12/2006; Santer et al., 9/19/2006]

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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