Conclusions of the IPCC

This IPCC finding makes several different assertions, each of which is worth considering in turn.

First, it claims that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases like CO2 are increasing, and as a result of human activity. This is a matter of simple observation. Many industrial processes, particularly the use of fossil fuels, produce CO2 as a by-product.18 Because CO2 remains in the atmosphere for a long time, its concentrations have been rising: from about 315 parts per million (ppm) when CO2 levels were first directly monitored at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in 1959 to about 390 PPM as of 2011.

The second claim, “these increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in additional warming of the Earth’s surface,” is essentially just a restatement of the IPCC’s first conclusion that the greenhouse effect exists, phrased in the form of a prediction. The prediction relies on relatively simple chemical reactions that were identified in laboratory experiments many years ago. The greenhouse effect was first proposed by the French physicist Joseph Fourier in 1824 and is usually regarded as having been proved by the Irish physicist John Tyndall in 1859,20 the same year that Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

The third claim—that water vapor will also increase along with gases like CO2, thereby enhancing the greenhouse effect—is modestly bolder. Water vapor, not CO2, is the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect.21 If there were an increase in CO2 alone, there would still be some warming, but not as much as has been observed to date or as much as scientists predict going forward. But a basic thermodynamic principle known as the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, which was proposed and proved in the nineteenth century, holds that the atmosphere can retain more water vapor at warmer temperatures. Thus, as CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases increase in concentration and warm the atmosphere, the amount of water vapor will increase as well, multiplying the effects of CO2 and enhancing warming.

Scientists require a high burden of proof before they are willing to conclude that a hypothesis is incontrovertible. The greenhouse hypothesis has met this standard, which is why the original IPCC report singled it out from among hundreds of findings as the only thing that scientists were absolutely certain about. The science behind the greenhouse effect was simple enough to have been widely understood by the mid- to late nineteenth century, when the lightbulb and the telephone and the automobile were being invented—and not the atomic bomb or the iPhone or the Space Shuttle. The greenhouse effect isn’t rocket science.

Indeed, predictions that industrial activity would eventually trigger global warming were made long before the IPCC—as early as 189722 by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, and at many other times23 before the warming signal produced by the greenhouse signal had become clear enough to be distinguished from natural causes.


The organization concludes that Global Warming, which is a very simple theory, is true.

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Greenhouse gas (0.961473): dbpedia | freebase
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 The Signal and the Noise
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Silver , Nate (2012-09-27), The Signal and the Noise, Penguin Press, Retrieved on 2013-04-09
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